Traffic Officers, Stupid Questions, And…Murder
It started with a patrol officer stopping a car for an expired vehicle registration. What followed was almost unbelievable, well, inconceivable to the average citizen, that is. But not to police officers who see the dark side of people that friends and family rarely witness.
The traffic stop proceeded like most others—“License and registration, please. Sir, your registration has expired. Oh, I didn’t know that, officer. I’m going to have to write a summons. Sign here, please. Do you have any drugs or weapons in the car? No, well, you don’t mind if I have a quick look, do you? Thank you. I’ll only take a moment. Ah, what’s this? Oxycodone? Do you have a prescription? No? Well, then, you’ll have to come with me. Please turn around and place your hands behind your back.”
Back at the police department, the proactive patrol officer called in the detectives.
“Where did you get the pills?”
“The guy have a name?
“I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself.”
“If I help you catch the guy, will you let me go.”
“Possibly. Depends on how truthful you are, I suppose. I’ll still have to go through the DA, and her answer will depend upon your honesty and how good the information is.”
“Oh, it’s good, all right.”
“Okay, let’s hear what you have to say. Remember, I’m recording your statement and you’ve waived your rights—the right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney present, etc.” Knowing this, you still wish to provide this statement, voluntarily?”
After nearly an hour of nonstop rambling, the details he’d offered were incredible. What had started as a mere hope of a solid drug bust, had morphed into something that would require lots of careful planning.
First up, a search warrant for the pill dealer’s residence.
Undercover officer stands outside guarding perimeter while team searches residence
The next steps in this extremely convoluted case were as follows:
1. Arrest female pill dealer and girlfriend.
Using LiveScan to fingerprint suspect
2. Question the pill dealer and girlfriend.
3. Prosecutor and detectives make deal with pill dealer’s girlfriend.
4. Fit pill dealer’s girlfriend with wire to allow detectives to listen in on conversations.
5. Pill dealer’s girlfriend enters home of ex-husband (She knocked. He answered and invited her inside). Ex-husband is an even larger drug dealer (quantity of drugs sold, not larger in physical size).
6. Pill dealer’s girlfriend’s ex-husband details plan to kill ex-wife’s current boyfriend (pill dealer) so he and his ex (pill dealer’s girlfriend) could be together again. Also, the murder would eliminate competition in drug trade.
The plan involves a hit man already employed by the ex-husband. Apparently he’s killed before. The woman, the pill dealer’s girlfriend/larger dealer’s ex-wife (she’d been in on the plan all along), was to have her current boyfriend take her on an outing/picnic in a wooded area beside a creek. The hit man, who’d already be in position with his sniper rifle, would kill the pill-pushing boyfriend. The deadly deed was to cost the larger drug dealer/ex-husband $5,000.
What the ex-wife/pill-pusher’s girlfriend didn’t know was that the hit on her current boyfriend was to cost $2,500. The second $2,500 was to be for killing her as well. At least, that’s what the hit man told police when he was arrested after a brief foot pursuit through the woods and across the creek.
A search warrant execution of the larger drug dealer/ex-husband’s residence and business, yielded a smorgasbord of drugs, weapons, and hidden cash.
“Bales” of marijuana
Investigators also discovered hundreds of stolen items, including guns, office equipment taken from local schools (printers, computers, etc.), tools, and much more.
Now you see why officers ask if they may search your car. Sometimes they find something, sometimes they don’t. In cases like this one, however, that took several days to close, lives were saved and bad guys went to jail and prison, citizens had valuable property returned to them, and the illegal cash seized (many thousands in this case) was used to fight crime. And it all started because an alert traffic officer observed an expired sticker on someone’s license plate. An officer who, by the way, was probably earning not much more than $15 per hour.
So, the next time you plan to hire a hit man to kill your ex and his/her current love interest, be sure all of your friends and acquaintances have up-to-date car registrations.
On the other hand, perhaps you should also look over your shoulder once and while. You never know who may be back there waiting for you to show up in their cross-hairs…
Lee, your blog just keeps getting better and better.
Am I correct in assuming that if an officer asks to search your car after stopping you for a perceived traffic violation, you are under no obligation to allow the search?
Does refusing to allow the search increase the officer’s suspicion and lead him/her to arrest you or otherwise prolong the traffic stop? Thanks.
Lee, this blog was fun to read. Thank you. “Dumb” criminals never cease to amaze me.
Ramona – we are fortunate to have Chief Serpas in New Orleans, though he did a great job in Nashville.
Lee – your story is what makes policing an adventure. You honestly NEVER know what each day or traffic stop will bring.
Preparation is the key in Cop Work and Cop Writing. Thanks for your leadership in both.
Crime in Nashville changed last decade when then police chief Ronal Serpas encouraged an increase on “routine” traffic stops (http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/chief-ronal-serpas-plan-for-a-safer-nashville-is-to-pull-you-over-early-and-often/Content?oid=1199094). It worked, turning up all kinds of drug and gun cases.
Unfortunately for the VERY young officer who stopped me at 4:30am for a broken taillight, I had just left the pet emergency clinic where I’d had to put my dog down. Her collar and paperwork were still on the passenger side and I was bawling like an injured child when he got to the window. I kept pointing to the collar and blubbering “It’s not you!”
He looked stunned and said softly, “I still have to run your license.” I nodded and handed everything to him. He let me off with a warning.
When it was over, I could laugh about it. Wish I’d had a chance to tell him I was GLAD he stopped me. Glad he was paying attention to what was going on at 4:30 in the morning in my neighborhood.
Much more complicated than Johnson County, Kansas, story of underage boy who robbed a grocery store where he had formerly worked. Crime unsolved until several weeks later when boy is stopped in car. Police telephone the owner of the car, the boy’s mother, for permission to search the car. Guess what? Search turned up items linking boy to grocery robbery. Moral of story: Don’t rob no grocery stores until you’re old enough to drive your own car.