On Sunday I stopped a car occupied by two men at Indian School and 20th St. for having a suspended license plate. One of my squadmates saw me pull over the car and pulled in behind me to provide backup. I approached the driver's window and asked the driver for his license. He told me he had no identification (a criminal offense and grounds for arrest.) The passenger was hiding one of his hands under his leg and I told him to let me see his hands. My backup officer walked up the passenger side and we both knew there was something wrong.
There was a strong smell of marijuana and both men claimed to speak no English. We pulled them both out of the car and put them in handcuffs while preparing to search the car. My partner yelled to me that he found a baggie of cocaine in the driver's pocket. I put the passenger in my patrol car and in my broken Spanish asked him were the marijuan was. He motioned his head towards his car. I asked him if it was a "pequito" or "mucho" amount. He answered, "One pound." I thought I probably misheard him since one pound is a lot. I walked back to the passenger side of the car and felt my heart start racing when I saw a 9mm Ruger handgun sitting between the front seats partially under a piece of paper. The hammer of the gun was cocked back and it was loaded. It would have taken two seconds for the passenger to pick it up if he had wanted to.
He wasn't kidding about the pot. I found over a pound of weed in a gallon-sized freezer bag in the back seat. Here's a picuture of the big bag of marijuna and the sandwich baggie of cocaine. There were three cell phones and a notebook containing what appeared to be a ledger of transactions. The large amounts of drugs combined with the phones and ledger lead me to charge them both with possession for sale (as opposed to just possession which is a much lessor crime). And, possession with intent to sell is grounds for vehicle seizure. I hope to see the Ford Taurus they were driving in service soon with the undercover drug agents.
Later that night, I was even more surprised to find a second gun next to the driver's seat. It was stuffed down between the seat and the center console. I looked there at least twice during the traffic stop and didn't see it. I've thought a lot about how I handled the traffic stop on Sunday and see many flaws. I had two Mexican Nationals committing serious felonies with loaded guns within reach. If my backup partner hadn't arrived a few seconds after I did, I wonder if the outcome may have been any different. Two against one may have encouraged them to take a chance with running or even shooting. My partner and I talked about all the things we did wrong and all the things we'll do right in the future.
I spent several hours interviewing, processing, and booking the two into jail. Both were charged with several felonies for drugs and weapons. I was commended by my sergeant and squadmates for the sizeable drug bust but would have felt better about it had I seen the guns right away and never gave them a chance to use them. Here's the gun I saw next the passenger seat (and some of the money):