Real-Life ‘Breaking Bad’ Scenario Suspected At NIST

Breaking Bad may be more than fiction at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, where a security officer is suspected of playing Walter White in a federal laboratory and causing more than a little damage.

On the evening of July 18, an explosion occurred in the NIST’s Gaithersburg, Maryland, campus, injuring the NIST officer on site. According to NBC News 4, a recipe for methamphetamine was found inside the lab, along with pseudoephedrine, Epsom salt, and drain opener. The injured officer was also found with burns on his hands and arms, but no life-threatening injuries. With all these pieces put together, authorities believe that the explosion and the attempted manufacture of drugs are connected, and are investigating further.

The Breaking Bad-esque incident took place in the Building 236 on NIST campus, according to the Associated Press. While the building was not currently in use for any sort of scientific research, it was reportedly used previously for combustion research. A blast shield inside one building, found by firefighters on the scene to have blown approximately 25 feet, indicates the explosion was sizable.

The materials found at the scene indicate that whoever NIST’s secret Walter White was did intend to produce small batches of meth. And the DEA has indeed stepped in — they’re investigating the situation jointly with the police, though as of this writing no arrests have been made. The DEA has confirmed that the investigation is still ongoing, but spokeswoman Laura Harris has declined to comment further.

While some appear to suspect the injured officer on the scene with perpetrating the Breaking Bad stunt, no charges have yet been filed. When met with fellow officers rushing to the scene of the explosion, he claimed that his injuries occurred when he burned himself while trying to refill a cigarette lighter. He was treated for his injuries at the hospital after the explosion, and resigned from his post at the NIST the next day.

Cooking meth is, as Breaking Bad has shown us, a risky endeavor in more ways than one — the chemicals involved are extremely volatile, and one can expect anything from flames to explosions to releases of poisonous fumes. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported related to this case, and there were no injuries beyond the aforementioned former officer.

[Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC]