Ride-along with Douglas County drug expert leads to cocaine arrest
The door opened and the handcuffed man was put into the seat behind me. I sat silent, heart racing, trying not to breathe too loud. I wasn’t sure if I should talk to him or just keep quiet. I chose the latter, but the silence was ominous.
The man also sat silently. I couldn’t even hear him breathe, but it sure felt like daggers were being shot out of his eyes and into the back of my head.
Neither of us said a word in what seemed like a lifetime of minutes slowly passing us by.
So, why was I in a vehicle with a man in handcuffs? I was on a ride along with Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Corey Sammons last Friday, Feb. 25.
How this story began
A few weeks prior to the ride along, I was talking with Sheriff Troy Wolbersen about two of his deputies who are Drug Recognition Experts in the county. We were talking about doing a story on these positions and I asked if I could do a ride along with one of the deputies. The sheriff arranged it and at 9 p.m. that Friday night, I met up with Deputy Sammons at the sheriff’s office and off we went.
While driving around, I asked him a slew of questions about his position as a Drug Recognition Expert. I found out that he is certified and that he had to take specific training in Arizona, training that was pretty intense.
His specialty is people who have been driving under the influence of drugs, rather than those who are driving under the influence of alcohol. He has been trained to look for signs that would be caused by drug impairment rather than alcohol.
When someone gets pulled over for possible driving under the influence of alcohol, officers perform standard field sobriety tests. But when a driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs, there are other tests or things that can be checked. Drug Recognition Experts look for rebound dilation in the eyes, which means that their pupils are pretty much pulsating.
They may also check a person’s pulse. Normal pulse rates may be between 60 and 90 beats per minute. People who use heroin or fentanyl, for example, would have a much lower rate. People who use cocaine or methamphetamine may have a much higher pulse, well over 100 beats per minute.
Deputy Sammons performed several tests on the man he had pulled over and the man failed them, which is part of the reason he ended up in the backseat behind me.
Why driver was pulled over
So why was the man pulled over in the first place? This was eye-opening for me.
We were parked along Third Avenue and Deputy Sammons was watching traffic. He had been previously watching a vehicle and providing details to me about what was happening with the people in the vehicle and because I couldn’t see what he was talking about, I told him he must have really good eyes. I then turned to see he was using binoculars. We both got a good laugh out of that.
He then noticed a vehicle was stopped on Jefferson Street and Third Avenue and it didn’t have any lights on. As the vehicle turned onto Third Avenue, it turned into the left lane of traffic, then after noticing us sitting there, immediately turned into the right lane. As the vehicle passed us, the deputy noticed several things, including large objects hanging from the mirror.
As we turned onto Third Avenue, the vehicle turned onto Maple Street. As we turned on Maple Street, the vehicle was just stopped in the middle of the road, so the deputy turned on his lights to pull the vehicle over.
At first, I thought the driver was going to try and speed away, but then he finally pulled over on Maple Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
I was kind of excited as it was getting close to 11 p.m. and I had only planned on being on the ride-along for a couple of hours.
I later learned from reading Deputy Sammons’ report that he had pulled the driver over for being stopped in the middle of the road, was driving without headlights and had items hanging from his mirror. When talking with the man, the deputy immediately observed the driver’s pupils, which were dilated and his eyes were very watery. The man also appeared to be lethargic, which I was OK with as I’m not sure what it would have been like if he’d been agitated or belligerent.
Driver was at hospital earlier that day
In talking with the deputy later on that evening, I learned that the man had been released from the hospital earlier that day. Apparently, he went to the hospital because he was feeling sick because of his drug use. And then apparently after he was let out of the hospital, he went and scored some drugs.
After we were done at the scene where the man had been pulled over, we drove to Alomere Health where the suspect had his blood drawn so it could be tested for drugs. Before bringing him into the ambulance bay, we sat in the parking lot so the deputy could write up a warrant for the blood draw.
I was in awe over the speed in which Sammons typed up the information. After that was done, he had to contact the on-call judge to sign the warrant. I learned that there is one judge on-call over the weekend for not only our county but several others. Because there was a glitch in the system, Sammons had to physically read his report to the judge over the phone and then the judge could sign off on the warrant. I never knew that was how it was done. It was super interesting.
After we were done at the hospital, we headed to the Douglas County Jail where the man would be booked and held until his court date, which was more than likely going to be on Monday.
Cocaine in a baggie
The deputy shared with me what he had found in the car. There was a baggie with a white substance in it that turned out to be 1.4 grams of cocaine. We actually ended up testing it right at the jail. The man had told Deputy Sammons it was “fake cocaine,” but the test revealed otherwise.
There was also a baggie with a hypodermic needle in it, burned tinfoil, a straw, a cap containing some kind of residue and two dollar bills that had been rolled up. I learned that drug users use money rolled up as straws to snort drugs.
All in all, the experience was pretty enlightening. I was super impressed by Deputy Sammons and honestly, I was half impressed with the man as he was respectful toward the deputy, answering him by saying, “No, sir,” and “Yes, sir.”
I told Sammons I was impressed by how he treated the man he arrested and he told me he had no reason to not treat him respectfully. The man listened, did what he was told and was calm, which apparently was due to the drugs. But regardless, I was truly impressed by the whole interaction. And I was thoroughly educated about the Drug Recognition Expert’s role.
A member of the DWI All-Star Team
We are very fortunate in Douglas County to have two deputies certified in that role. Deputy Sammons takes his job very seriously and has done his part to take impaired drivers off the road. And, he has been rewarded for it. For several years in a row now, he has been named to the DWI All-Star Team by the state of Minnesota. Those named to the team are selected for outstanding service in enforcement and prosecution of impaired driving.
Last year, Sammons stopped 82 people for driving under the influence. To be an All Star, you need 25. I would say he indeed takes his job seriously. And I thank him for that and allowing me to ride along with him.