Deputies said they found bags containing almost 3 pounds of tablets containing the potentially deadly opiate fentanyl during a traffic stop near Kings Creek.

Three people from Wilkes County were arrested after deputies found almost 3 pounds of fentanyl during a traffic stop, the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office said.

Ashley Romona Horton, 18, of Boomer, Nicholas Collin Greene, 23, of Wilkesboro and Jaylon Chance Long, 24, of North Wilkesboro were each charged with trafficking heroin or opium.

The deputies who stopped them on Wednesday afternoon were looking for their vehicle, a white Toyota Camry, because the group reportedly had been involved in an argument about 2:45 p.m. with an employee at a Shop & Save convenience store on Wilkesboro Boulevard in the Kings Creek area, Capt. Aaron Barlowe said. During the argument, one of the men pulled out a pistol and pointed it at the employee.

The employee had called 911 because the group initially wouldn’t leave, and deputies who were heading to the store saw the Toyota headed in the opposite direction, turned around, and pulled the car over, Barlowe said.

At some point before the Toyota stopped, someone threw the gun out of the car, and deputies later found it on the ground, Barlowe said. When deputies searched the car, they found a large bag of thousands of yellow tablets, which tested positive for a type of fentanyl, a powerful opiate that can be fatal in tiny amounts.

The bag, which contained an estimated 3,000 tablets, weighed 2.86 pounds.

In 2017 and 2018, a string of high-profile fatal overdoses in Caldwell County caused by a substance called cyclopropyl fentanyl led to several arrests, and the people charged with distributing the drugs that led to the deaths are all now in prison. (One man in the drug ring still awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge and is serving a prison sentence for other crimes.)

“Fentanyl is a very dangerous substance. That’s one of the things we have to handle with extreme caution,” Barlowe said. “This is not like a pill that you can count like out of the pill bottle.”

Green, Long and Horton were being held with bonds set at $150,000 secured. Long also was charged with three counts of failure to appear in court. His bond on those charges is $5,000 secured.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.