A former sheriff’s deputy in Florida has been arrested and unceremoniously dismissed after an investigation uncovered his penchant for pulling over drivers for minor traffic violations and planting drugs inside of their vehicles.
The Hill reports that on Wednesday morning, 26-year-old Zachary Wester was slapped with felony charges of racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of a controlled substance, and false imprisonment, in addition to misdemeanor charges of perjury, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced the charges after combing through 1,300 minutes of recorded video and spending over 1,400 hours on the case.
“FDLE began its investigation last August at the request of Jackson County Sheriff’s Office,” the department said in a statement. “The investigation shows Wester routinely pulled over citizens for alleged minor traffic infractions, planted drugs inside their vehicles and arrested them on fabricated drug charges. Wester circumvented JCSO’s body camera policy and tailored his recordings to conceal his criminal activity.”
The Washington Post detailed an instance in which Wester seemingly pulled drugs “out of thin air”:
It was October 2017 and [Benjamin] 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.
In September, 119 cases involving the former sheriff’s deputy were dropped by the state.
Wester is currently being held without bond at the Wakulla County Jail.