11 Arrested in Lakemill Raid

Fire inspectors and building code enforcers returned to a Reno motel early Monday to check the site for any safety violations following a weekend raid that led to the arrest of 11 people on various warrants and drug charges, police said.

Sunday's sweep of the Lakemill Lodge near downtown followed two
recent killings at the low-budget motel that police say has become
a haven from criminals and drug users.

A few weeks ago, a 30-year-old man was killed in the parking garage of the lodge because, police said, he confronted his drug dealer about being sold fake drugs.

In November, a convicted felon riding his bike was shot and killed outside the motel.

And in October, another convicted felon was arrested in one of the motel's rooms after police said he fatally bludgeoned and robbed a substitute teacher, then robbed and beat a man at an adult bookstore so he could buy crack cocaine.

Police said calls to the Lakemill Lodge have exceeded 100 per month.

About 70 people were interviewed Sunday, police said. Those arrested had outstanding warrants or were booked for possession of methamphetamine or drug paraphernalia.

Manager Kenwal Brar said the motel's reputation as a haven for criminals and drug addicts is not fair. He said most of the police calls for service were related to the Lamplighter Lounge, now closed, which shared the motel's bottom floor. A new bar will be opening there.

"The last killing had nothing to do with the lodge," Brar told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

He said in the past six months, the motel has tried to increase safety by requiring a stairwell key to access the floors. It's also added 24-hour video surveillance and there are plans for a covered garage where only registered vehicles will have access.

Brar also said the motel only rents to people who are employed and show work badges.

"If someone's son comes over to visit, and he is using or selling drugs, how are we supposed to know that?" Brar asked. "To say this is where criminals live would be unfair to all the people who have lived here for years and paid their rent who aren't involved in crime."

Police see the situation differently.

"We have problems with meth users in this area," said Sgt. Greg Ballew. "This low-budget motel attracts that problem, and we are working hard with its management to clean it up."

Across the street, Anwar Masud, general manager of the Siena Hotel Spa and Casino, welcomed the police effort.

The Siena, located along the Truckee River, opened six years ago after a $50 million makeover.

"It's no secret that it's a very problematic property, not only for the city and law enforcement, but for us," he said. "It devastates our business. It's not just the criminals flowing into our building, but the perception that it creates for guests that is very negative and detrimental to not just our business, but the other attractions in downtown Reno.

"In the big picture, I am certain the Lakemill Lodge has deterred developers or investors or residents who want to be in this area," Masud said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)