Investigation Into Mt. Olive Police Shakes Some Residents' Trust
Posted September 11, 2004 8:53 a.m. EDT
MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. — The State Bureau of Investigation continues to look into the possible misconduct of three Mount Olive police officers. The officers have not been charged, but the investigation is shaking some people's trust.
Sgt. Josh Ehnert, Patrolman David Johnson and Senior Patrolman Freddie Southerland are accused of taking money from Hispanic drivers during routine traffic stops.
Pam Toler, who works in Mount Olive, said she knows the officers at the center of the investigation.
"I couldn't believe it. Not in Mount Olive because this is like Mayberry," Toler said. "They seemed like good guys. They didn't seem like they would do anything like that."
The SBI launched an investigation after receiving numerous complaints that officers were targeting Hispanic drivers, pulling them over and stealing money. According to a search warrant, an undercover SBI agent posing as a driver was pulled over by Ehnert and lost more than $300.
"It makes you feel like you can't trust the police department, really. They're supposed to be out here to help people," resident Colonel Gooden said.
"[It] kind of makes you nervous because you don't know if there are more involved," resident Cynthia Ballard said.
District Attorney Branny Vickory said people should not lose faith in the department. He said Mount Olive's police chief reported the complaints as soon as he heard them.
"It shows that the people in the top positions of the department are certainly interested in seeing to it that if anything wrong has occurred that somebody get to the bottom of it and do whatever is appropriate," Vickory said.
No criminal charges have yet been filed against any officers. The police department hopes the case is resolved soon so it can begin rebuilding public trust.