Prosecutors in Pueblo, Colorado are dropping felony drug and weapon-possession charges after an officer involved in the case said he staged body cam footage so he could walk “the courts through” the vehicle search that led to the arrest.
The development means that defendant Joseph Cajar, 36, won’t be prosecuted on allegations of heroin possession and of unlawful possession of a handgun. The evidence of the contraband was allegedly found during a search of Cajar’s vehicle, which was towed after he couldn’t provide an officer registration or insurance during a traffic stop. Officer Seth Jensen said he found about seven grams of heroin and a .357 Magnum in the vehicle at the tow yard. But the actual footage of the search that he produced in court was a reenactment of the search, the officer told prosecutors.
Cajar’s attorney said the development, which comes as more and more police agencies are deploying body cams, is a disturbing use of technology.
“Everyone who looked at the video believed it was in-time documentation of what actually happened,” lawyer Joe Koncilja told Ars. The video, he said, shows the officer is “surprised by the fact that he found the gun. It’s tampering with evidence.” The video was shown in court during a March preliminary hearing where a judge found sufficient evidence to prosecute Cajar.
On the plus side, the officer did mention it was a re-enactment. Dropping the charges sounds strange though, because it’s still the word of 2 cops vs 1 crim and that alone should carry enough weight. If it doesn’t, where’s the trust in law enforcement? Especially as the cop mentions it’s a re-enactment.