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A Florida cop planted meth on random drivers, police say

 
Old 07-11-2019, 09:35 AM
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rprice
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Default A Florida cop planted meth on random drivers, police say

A Florida cop planted meth on random drivers, police say. One lost custody of his daughter.




© WJHG/(Screenshot/WJHG Deputy Zachary Wester pulls over Theresa Odom, whom he arrested for possession of meth after police say he planted the drugs (Screenshot/WJHG) The meth seemed to appear out of thin air.



Benjamin Bowling couldn’t figure it out. He had been clean ever since his release from prison on a DUI conviction, but now a Jackson County, Fla., sheriff’s deputy was accusing him of possessing a minuscule amount of methamphetamine.

It was October 2017 and Bowling was on his way to the store to pick up diapers with his friend Shelly Smith when they saw the flashing lights swirl in the rearview mirror. He had been out of prison for less than a year, doing everything he could to get his life back on track. He passed all his drug tests. He had recently been awarded custody of his daughter. But deputy Zachary Wester was escalating a traffic stop for swerving over a white line into a search for illicit drugs

Bowling and Smith, confident they had nothing to hide, told Wester to go ahead and search the car after he claimed to smell marijuana, assuring him he wouldn’t find any.

He emerged with meth.

Now, nearly two years after Bowling lost custody of the daughter he had just gotten back, after he was convicted of felony meth possession, he knows exactly how it got there. Wester, state investigators now say, planted it himself — and Bowling was far from the only victim.

Wester, who was fired last September, was arrested Wednesday and charged with 52 counts of racketeering, false imprisonment, official misconduct, fabricating evidence and possession of controlled substances, among other charges. He’s accused of indiscriminately targeting innocent drivers and hauling them off to jail after planting meth or marijuana in their vehicles while feigning a “search."

“There is no question that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail,” Chris Williams, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s assistant special agent in charge, said in a news release.

Bowling, who has since been cleared, is just one of 11 known victims named in the affidavit, although the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Wednesday that there may be more victims who have not yet been identified, and the case remains under investigation. At least 119 cases involving Wester have been dropped, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. In addition to the dropped charges, Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson ordered at least eight inmates released from correctional facilities last fall, as 263 cases remained under review.

Investigators said at a news conference Wednesday that there did not appear to be any rhyme or reason to the drivers Wester, 26, singled out for false arrests on drug possession. Some were parents with a diaper bag in the back seat. Others were young men and women, some crying as they insisted they had never touched drugs, let alone meth, in their lives.

Asked by reporters why Wester would do this, State Attorney William “Bill” Eddins of Florida’s 1st Judicial Circuit said that was a good question. Investigators were still trying to figure it out themselves, he said.

“You’re never certain of what lies in the heart of man,” he said.

Eddins said he does not plan to offer a plea bargain, and that Wester faces up to 30 years in prison. Wester’s defense attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Wester, who joined the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in 2016, fell under suspicion last year after a prosecutor noticed inconsistencies in what Wester wrote in his reports and what was captured on his body camera — if he turned it on. The problem was he seemed to leave the device off most of the time, conveniently only recording after drugs were already “found” in a vehicle. In most cases, as in Bowling’s, he typically pulled someone over for a minor traffic infraction before asking if he smelled marijuana.

Yet, even after reporting on affidavits that he smelled or even thought he saw marijuana, he typically emerged finding meth. According to the affidavit, meth, marijuana and 42 pieces of drug paraphernalia were found in Wester’s trunk.

One case, that of Teresa Odom, was illuminating — appearing to capture Wester holding an unknown object in his left hand shortly before “discovering” meth in her truck, in the rare case his body camera was left on.

“Hi, how are you?” Wester asked her in a friendly voice as he rolled up to her window, according to footage released to the news media. “The reason for is, um, your brake lights: They work one minute, and then the next minute they don’t work.”

He took her license, left momentarily, and returned to ask if he could search her vehicle. She said it was no problem with a shrug, as long as she could take her phone with her. “Hang tight, Ms. Odom,” He grabbed a pair of gloves from his cruiser — then appears to be holding a tiny plastic baggie inside his left hand, according to the video and affidavit.

The affidavit describes it like a magician’s sleight of hand: “Without putting on the glove, Deputy Wester’s left hand dropped out of view, down toward the front of the driver’s seat, and after a brief pause, reappeared empty.”

Shortly thereafter, Wester pulls a tiny plastic bag out of Odom’s purse: “Oh, Ms. Odom, how about this?” Wester asked, confronting Odom with the drugs.

“That is not mine,” she said. “No, sir. No, sir. What is it?” As another deputy who arrived for backup teased her that she was about to go to jail, she responded tersely: “It damn sure ain’t mine.”

It wasn’t. The Democrat reported that Odom wept at the news conference Wednesday announcing, saying she felt “overwhelmed."

In a few cases, some drivers were already suspected of other crimes, such as driving with a suspended license or having an outstanding warrant, or even admitting to having marijuana in the car — and yet Wester still planted meth on them, according to the affidavit.

But mostly the drivers were guilty of nothing. Erika Helms — whose brother, Lance Sellers, has sued the sheriff’s department alleging false arrest — told the Democrat that Wester “ruined lives.” Sellers, she said, had to spend a year in residential rehab after his arrest for possession of meth. The charges were later dropped. In addition to Sellers, more than a dozen people have filed notices of intent to sue, the Democrat reported.

“People are losing their lives, their freedom, their children, their marriages — all because of this one man,” Helms told the Democrat. “It’s not just innocent men. It’s innocent children. It goes a lot deeper than everyone realizes.”

It’s unclear if Bowling regained custody of his daughter since his arrest, or whether other parents faced the same fate.

At least one innocent mother feared she would, according to the affidavit.
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:39 AM
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Hope that dirty cop does hard time for his crimes.
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:43 AM
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They should force that cop to OD on meth.
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:48 AM
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I'm sure he'll have a warm welcome in jail.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by RMVette View Post
I'm sure he'll have a warm welcome in jail.
Kinda what I was thinking. He is gonna regret planting the meth when Bubba plants one in him! And he deserves it!
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:03 AM
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What on earth would make him do that? What would be the possible reward for him to plant the drugs? Hard to fathom.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Docbrock View Post
What on earth would make him do that? What would be the possible reward for him to plant the drugs? Hard to fathom.
Quotas and recognition. Just doing my job Captain!
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:12 AM
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Hope he shares a cell with Bubba.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:17 AM
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So which one of you ex cons knows where they would house an ex cop in prison? I'm guessing not in general population but if true, that fkr needs to serve time.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:24 AM
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Scumbag POS. Victims should ruin his life with lawsuits, after his lengthy prison stay.

Didn't his superiors take note of his above-average drug finds from routine traffic stops?
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Stevedore View Post
Scumbag POS. Victims should ruin his life with lawsuits, after his lengthy prison stay.

Didn't his superiors take note of his above-average drug finds from routine traffic stops?

Wester, who joined the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in 2016, fell under suspicion last year after a prosecutor noticed inconsistencies in what Wester wrote in his reports and what was captured on his body camera — if he turned it on. The problem was he seemed to leave the device off most of the time, conveniently only recording after drugs were already “found” in a vehicle. In most cases, as in Bowling’s, he typically pulled someone over for a minor traffic infraction before asking if he smelled marijuana.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:14 AM
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Wow, joined the force in 2016, and nearly 400 cases now under review.

Interesting that a prosecutor was the one to notice, not a fellow officer.

Kinda makes a person wonder...
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by scottycards View Post
Wow, joined the force in 2016, and nearly 400 cases now under review.

Interesting that a prosecutor was the one to notice, not a fellow officer.

Kinda makes a person wonder...
What do you wonder?
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by vettsplit 63 View Post
What do you wonder?
It makes me wonder how far cops go turning the other cheek to protect other officers.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:22 AM
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**** this guy.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by scottycards View Post
It makes me wonder how far cops go turning the other cheek to protect other officers.
I know what you meant. Believe it or not, some people suck at drug interdiction. Others are good at it. And they don't have to cheat to do it. It takes a special mindset. And having a boss who doesn't care that all you do is run up and down the highway doing interdiction. I have way more stuff to keep me busy, like the real stuff Cops do. And contrary to what most in CF think, it isn't screwing with traffic violators for the hell of it.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by vettsplit 63 View Post
I know what you meant. Believe it or not, some people suck at drug interdiction. Others are good at it. And they don't have to cheat to do it. It takes a special mindset. And having a boss who doesn't care that all you do is run up and down the highway doing interdiction. I have way more stuff to keep me busy, like the real stuff Cops do. And contrary to what most in CF think, it isn't screwing with traffic violators for the hell of it.
It's a strange dynamic, and I know I'll likely be called a cop-hater at some point for holding this opinion.

I'm not a cop hater, I'm a cop skeptic. Those guys do a job I'd never want, and I'll never understand why they do it. They deal with the worst of the worst all day.

But I don't understand the mentality. If I saw a co-worker doing something out of line (unethical, dishonest, against policy), I'd say something immediately, and follow through on it to resolution. That doesn't seem to be the case a lot of times in LE.

Just one of many things I'll never understand, I guess.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by scottycards View Post
It's a strange dynamic, and I know I'll likely be called a cop-hater at some point for holding this opinion.

I'm not a cop hater, I'm a cop skeptic. Those guys do a job I'd never want, and I'll never understand why they do it. They deal with the worst of the worst all day.

But I don't understand the mentality. If I saw a co-worker doing something out of line (unethical, dishonest, against policy), I'd say something immediately, and follow through on it to resolution. That doesn't seem to be the case a lot of times in LE.

Just one of many things I'll never understand, I guess.
I'm with you man. I am definitely pro LEO. Thank all LEO for their service. However there is no way no other LEO knew what he was doing is there?
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by scottycards View Post
It's a strange dynamic, and I know I'll likely be called a cop-hater at some point for holding this opinion.

I'm not a cop hater, I'm a cop skeptic. Those guys do a job I'd never want, and I'll never understand why they do it. They deal with the worst of the worst all day.

But I don't understand the mentality. If I saw a co-worker doing something out of line (unethical, dishonest, against policy), I'd say something immediately, and follow through on it to resolution. That doesn't seem to be the case a lot of times in LE.

Just one of many things I'll never understand, I guess.
I understand your skepticism. But also understand that most of us have no reason to see the evidence/lack of in another Officer's cases. We work very much semi autonomously, and I have neither the inclination nor interest in what some other Officer's cases are. There are guys that I know that have just as many drug busts as this asshat, but they find pounds of cocaine or meth at a single stop. As I said, I have a respect for what they do, but most of the time they are one trick ponies- They have no clue as to how to work up a domestic violence case, or a sexual abuse of a child forensic interview, or how to prepare a search warrant affidavit. 99 per cent of what Cops do doesn't involve stopping people on the highway, but from the amount of bitching that goes on in this forum, you would think that Cops just ride around looking for some hot shot Corvette driver to fu** with. rant over. Every once in a while we actually get to see how someone's life is better because we got the ******* meth addict that was beating up his wife/kids out of the way, or helping an old lady get her money back that some scam artist conned her out of.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:44 AM
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Psychopath
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