Local News

Three Mt. Olive Police Officers Accused Of Targeting Hispanic Motorists

Posted September 10, 2004

— Three Mount Olive police officers are off the job after being accused of stealing money from citizens.

The three officers -- Sgt. Josh Ehnert, Patrolman David Johnson and senior Patrolman Freddie Southerland -- are at the center of a criminal investigation.

According to search warrants, the officers are accused of targeting Hispanic men at traffic stops and taking money out of their wallets.

"Something like this always does tarnish everyone," said Mount Olive Police Chief Emmett Ballree.

According to a search warrant, an undercover agent with the State Bureau of Investigation posing as a Hispanic driver was pulled over by Ehnert. The warrant says the officer took more that $300 from the agent.

Ballree contacted the SBI after he conducted an internal investigation. He said the public's trust is at stake.

"Honestly, I'm heart-broken. It breaks my heart. We are a small department and we consider ourselves as family," Ballree said. "When something likes this happens, it affects all of us. We realize that we have to work twice as hard to regain or keep the public's trust.

The officers have been suspended without pay.

The Wayne County District Attorney's Office is considering whether to file charges against the officers.

"We'll get to the bottom of it and do whatever's appropriate," District Attorney Branny Vickory said.

The D.A.'s Office is urging apparent victims to come forward.

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