Recently released body camera footage seems to show a since-fired Florida sheriff’s deputy lying about the results of a roadside drug test performed during a traffic stop last year.
In the video obtained by libertarian outlet Reason, Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy Zachary Wester has already pulled over Steve Vann‘s white SUV and then begins to rifle through things.
Wester quickly produces a small, black baggie–the sort commonly used to hold small quantities of drugs. The view of where the baggie actually comes from is obscured by the top hatch of the vehicle’s center console. As the baggie appears on camera, Wester says, “What’s this?”
The sheriff’s deputy then goes through a few more items in the SUV before briefly interrogating Vann.
Wester first asks whether anyone else had recently been in the car with Vann. The confused driver says yes–but has trouble remembering the last name of his latest passenger before inquiring what the line of questioning is all about.
“Honesty is going to go a long way with me, okay man?” Wester tells Vann as he holds up the baggie. “I’ve got to test this. Have you ever seen this before?”
“No, no what is that?” Vann asks with increasing incredulity. “Where’d you get that?”
“The center console,” Wester shouts back as he walks to the trunk of his cruiser to perform a roadside test of the baggie for the presence of methamphetamine or methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).
“There ain’t no way, man,” Vann implores as Wester slowly administers the test. “Oh man, come on. Oh my god, you gotta be fucking kidding me, man.”
According to Reason, Wester used a Nark II field test. The manufacturer claims that such tests “will develop an IMMEDIATE (within 2 seconds) Dark Blue color as a positive reaction after breakage and agitation of the 3rd ampoule. If the color development is an immediate Pink slowly transforming to Lavender, you DO NOT have either Methamphetamine or MDMA.”
Wester repeatedly shakes the reagent device. The contents clearly show a pink or purplish color. Wester shakes again.
“Blue,” the now-fired cop says.
He shakes the field test again.
Wester then Mirandizes Vann and tries to get the innocent man to admit his knowledge about the fake drugs allegedly located in the SUV’s center console. Vann almost immediately breaks into tears and becomes increasingly confused throughout the encounter, but never admits to knowing about the fake drugs–noting that he wouldn’t have agreed to a vehicle search if he knew there were drugs in his car.
“I’m going to have to take your vehicle, too,” Wester says at one point in the video. “Listen buddy, I don’t think you’re a bad guy.” According to WTYV 4 News, prosecutors in Florida began reviewing over 260 cases involving Wester after he was caught allegedly planting drugs on another motorist in a separate incident.
Since that review commenced, over 100 cases have been tossed and several sentences have been vacated.
Law&Crime reached out to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office for additional comment on this story but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
[image via screengrab/Jackson County Sheriff’s Office]