6 Drug Busts That Went Embarrassingly Wrong
We've been fighting a war against drugs for decades, but drugs somehow keep winning. Maybe it's due to flawed policies, corruption, or even a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem, but there's one thing no one has considered: Drugs might just be smarter than us. Here are six stories from the front lines of the drug war that support this theory.
The Beverly Hills Police Mistake A Random Junkie For Scott Weiland
From what we understand, the tour bus of a '90s grunge band was essentially a mobile opium den with a flannel motif. And even in this scene, Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland was notorious as a guy who took things too far. He had so much heroin in his bodily fluids that over half his groupies were later torn apart by drug-sniffing dogs.
In 2014, the Beverly Hills police arrested a man for shoplifting razors from a Rite Aid. It turns out he was also carrying meth, so they arrested him even harder. He told police he was STP's Scott Weiland, which they had no trouble believing, since Scott Weiland's body was the mailing address for most California meth.
"Scott" spent four weeks in prison, because he couldn't afford bail. This might've been suspicious, given his bands' album sales and world tours, but the BHPD still put out a press release headlined "Celebrity Arrest." TMZ ran the story, and no one was too surprised.
Well, except for Weiland himself.
He posted a video on Facebook announcing that he was in the studio recording a new album and quite certain he wasn't in jail. When TMZ contacted the cops, they insisted their prisoner was "definitely" still there. Still, they were starting to realize something wasn't right. They finally double-checked their prisoner's fingerprints and discovered he was not world-famous musician Scott Weiland. On a related hunch, three of the officers went home that night to also discover their wives were not the real Jennifer Lopez.
It turned out their jailed drug offender was some guy named Jason Michael Hurley. And to the cops' credit, he looked pretty similar to Weiland.
Jason was a Stone Temple Pilots fan, and even had plans to start an STP cover band. That might only be relevant to show you how bad he was at making decisions all day every day. It is absolutely unclear what his endgame was. It was only fantastic incompetence that sustained his story longer than five minutes. He had to know Weiland was too famous to keep it going forever, and if that's what he wanted, why not claim to be from Mother Love Bone?
Hurley was charged with providing false information to police, and Weiland's good name was restored, as far as that's possible for a dude who was once busted buying heroin while dressed as a pimp. Plus, TMZ got to write a smug denunciation of the BHPD's sloppy fact-checking. If that's not a sign of how badly you've fucked up, we don't know what is.
The Dallas Fake Drugs Scandal
In 2001, two Dallas narcotics officers, Mark Delapaz and Eddie Herrera, were kicking drugs in the ass. In a whirlwind of epic busts, proud press conferences, and official commendations, they helped seize over 1,400 pounds of cocaine. To help you understand how much that is: It's enough cocaine to turn 56 African elephants into assholes.
One of the reasons they were able to do this is because of their insanely well-connected criminal informant, Enrique Alonso. He seemed to always know just where to find men sneaking drugs across the border, and he was happy to turn them in since he was paid a commission on anything seized through his tips. He snitched on so many of his friends that, in 2001, he earned almost as much as the Dallas chief of police. Enrique was the Michael Jordan of tattling.
Now that you know Enrique's business model, try to think of how a clever 7-year-old might try to game the system. We'll see if you're right in a moment.
You see, before a drug trial begins, evidence is analyzed to make sure the huge bag of cocaine a man was arrested with is actually an illegal drug and not something stupid like, say ... crushed pool chalk. It turns out that all the people Enrique informed on were carrying harmless bags of gypsum. Which might explain why they were all so confused about being arrested for cocaine trafficking.
Thirty people were jailed like this -- a suspiciously high number. After all, who buys cocaine in bulk from a man whose previous 29 clients are in jail for buying drugs? No one. Enrique was planting kilos of chalk dust on Mexican laborers, calling up the police, and pocketing the commission. It was despicable -- the kind of crime that makes Satan hold a brainstorming meeting for new kinds of punishment.
But this stupid disaster wasn't entirely on Enrique. Officers Delapaz and Herrera seemed to think there was nothing suspicious about a crime spree of confused immigrants leaving mountains of drugs in their cars. In one case, two day-laborers left "their" 169 pounds of "cocaine" unattended in an unlocked van with the windows rolled down at a fucking Jack In The Box. "Time to cut another check for Enrique! Man, how does this guy always seem to know where to find a vehicle that looks like someone threw bags of drugs into their open window? Unless ... nah."
The point is, the police should have been suspicious even before they found out all the drugs were chalk. Unfortunately, when they did, it only got stupider. Chief Terrell Bolton held a press conference and blamed Osama Bin Laden. He theorized that post-9/11 border crackdowns had screwed with the coke supply, so dealers were selling pretend drugs instead. So yes, they held people in prison for up to six months for trafficking chalk, but who cares? All that probably means is they were bad drug dealers!
Luckily, this story has a happy ending. Enrique was arrested along with his handler, hero cop and officer of the year candidate Mark Delapaz, who turned out to be in on it. He was charged with evidence tampering and perjury and thrown in prison, and all those poor bastards who were jailed for chalk possession shared a $5.6 million payout. After being deported, Enrique turned up back in Texas, where he was immediately busted for trying to sell counterfeit money to undercover cops. I guess he'd gotten the impression the police there are kind of gullible.
A Detroit Cop Steals And Uses Weed, Totally Can't Handle It
In 2007, some unknown miscreant was busted on the streets of Detroit with a quarter ounce of marijuana. Fortunately for him, Officer Edward Sanchez was a man of compassion and let the suspect go. And then, to make absolutely sure the weed could never fall into the hands of children, Sanchez took the stash home, baked it all into a batch of brownies, and shared them with his wife.
Sanchez had smoked pot before but had never eaten it, and he looked forward to getting a nice corrupt buzz on. But, as we're sure our readers don't know, there are some crucial differences between smoking pot and eating it. Edibles don't kick in immediately, so it's trickier to judge their potency. They're like a dad in an old sitcom trying to do laundry. Everything seems to be going smoothly until your world suddenly becomes bubbling chaos.
This can scare the hell out of someone who has no idea weed alone can so thoroughly and comprehensively fuck one's shit up. And while you might have a horrible night on too many pot brownies, it's pretty tough to die from a THC overdose. Sanchez did not know this. When the brownies began to take hold and he found himself too high to recall the location of his own ass, he didn't go fetal in front of the TV like a normal drug abuser. He called 911. And it was amazing.
And the full call:
He blubbered and whimpered about how he and his wife needed rescuing. He told the dispatcher, "We made brownies and I think we're dead. I really do." If there was a committee that honored not being able to handle your shit, this call would have won him a lifetime achievement award. He even asked her the score of the Red Wings game to make sure the phone call wasn't some kind of hallucination. That's how high he was -- he thought his telephone was a lie.
Because the universe is perfect, the ambulance finally arrived at the exact same time as his mother-in-law. He was busted. In every direction. So Officer Sanchez did the honorable thing: He told investigators his treacherous wife had stolen the pot from his squad car and pranked him by baking it into brownies. Ha! A classic cop's wife prank!
To make matters worse, she told police she once stole cocaine from his car that was meant to be used to train drug-sniffing dogs. Maybe she thought this helped their story? It's worth mentioning they were both sober by this time. It seems they were as bad at lying as they were at law enforcement and recreational drugs.
Sanchez was kicked off the force, and we imagine he's currently being eaten by imaginary clowns in a corner after sipping too much NyQuil.
The NYPD's War On Candy
When George Pringle left a Staten Island barber shop and was stopped by the NYPD, he was no doubt expecting compliments on his stylish new look. Instead, they accused him of selling loose cigarettes, a police code that seems to translate roughly to, "You're black and therefore must be up to something." When police searched Pringle, they found no evidence of cigarette sales, but there was something even more dangerous in his pocket: crack cocaine. Cleverly disguised to look just like a mint, right down to the detail of its cellophane wrapping and mint-like scent.
As you might imagine, Pringle told them it was a mint and offered the cop a taste to confirm his outlandish story. Officer Jon-Michael Raggi thought it was an attempt to poison him, and when Pringle offered to eat it himself, Raggi knew it was a clever ploy to escape justice through suicide. Seriously. So Pringle was charged with possession and hauled into the 120th precinct's lock-up.
Pringle, who actually was just carrying a candy mint, spent 27 hours in jail before charges were dropped. But it's not quite as simple as another stupid and/or racist mistake. Pringle was a drug-addiction counselor, and that's not the kind of career where you can afford even the slightest suspicion of crack dealing. So he lawyered up and hit them with a wrongful arrest suit.
The lawyers for the police were probably used to this by now, since it wasn't the first time they'd had to deal with the 120th precinct's cheerful disregard for common sense, civil rights, and fiscal restraint. So instead of going to trial, they settled with Pringle for $42,500, which they described as in the best interests of all parties. And we have to admit that, considering recent history, this could have gone much, much worse for Pringle.
The World's Worst Drug Dogs
Drug-sniffing police dogs are like drug-sniffing police humans -- their success rate is a bit sketchy, and they have an embarrassing history of racism. But there was one group of drug-sniffing pups in particular that was especially bad at their job.
In Melbourne, Australia, a 2005 graduating class of pups was sent to clean up the streets. Seven bright-eyed, tail-wagging rookies hit the clubs and pubs to hunt thugs and take their drugs. But after months, they didn't manage to sniff out a single cocaine bust. What was wrong with these adorably incompetent crime-fighters?
Well, detection dogs take a 10-week course where they're trained using towels that have been rubbed with cocaine. It's the same way roadies used to trick Motley Crue into taking baths. Well, it turns out the cocaine used to train the class of '05 was a 78-gram bag of talcum powder. Some idiot accidentally trained these dogs to find clean babies (which is their assistant commissioner's joke, not ours).
When solving the mystery of the baby-powder-sniffing canines, the obvious guess was a corrupt cop swapping out the drugs. But after three inquiries, it was discovered the actual cause was a bit more ridiculous. The cocaine used during training came from a federal police bust where they took every bit of powder lying around, even the bags of harmless talcum the drug dealers planned to use to stretch their product.
The police who found it knew what it was, and it was labeled "NPSD" -- cop code for "No Prohibited Substances Detected." Well, the officers who signed it out of evidence for dog school must have thought it meant "Narcotic Put aSide for Dogs." Or maybe "Nice Puppy Super Drugs"? The point is, they clearly don't put Australia's top cops on doggie drug-napkin duty.
The World's Worst High School Drug Raid
As a student informer told it to his principal, an evil marijuana dealer lurked among the 2,700 students of Stratford High in South Carolina. Principal McCrackin was on the case. He passed on CCTV footage to the police, and they agreed a few students looked suspicious. Suspicious children? Not on their watch.
The police knew they had to do something. And not something lame, like an investigation or a locker search. Something heroic. Something awesome. So as dawn broke, 14 cops in bulletproof vests hid themselves in closets and stairwells. They held their positions until the first school buses arrived and the halls filled with 107 students.
They waited for staff to seal the exits.
And then, with the full reason of trained, non-drunk adults, they burst from their hiding spots, waving guns and yelling at their captives to hit the floor and put their hands on their heads. Any kid who looked uncooperative was handcuffed, and dogs were brought in to search everyone's bags and lockers.
As a way to take 107 teenage hostages, it was brilliant. As a way to find illegal substances, it was less so. Among the 107 students, not a single one had a single drug. The closest they came to finding anything was when a drug-sniffing dog freaked out over some drug-less bags -- which as you now know could mean drug residue or a trainer accidentally swapping out their training cocaine with sweaty gym clothes.
To make matters worse, the main suspect in the case hadn't even turned up to school that day, and despite having less than a 25 percent black population, the school's black students made up two-thirds of the suspects taken during the raid. When the buses of white kids arrived, it must have looked like an educational flashmob their young history teacher had organized to bring the civil rights era to life.
Despite all this, the police still defended their decision to turn a high school into a hostage situation. They claimed drug dealers carry weapons, and in the name of "officer safety" it was necessary to go in commando-raid-style. Because when you're worried about a 13-year-old weed dealer starting a gunfight with you, you want to make sure that gunfight takes place in a crowded school hall and has plenty of crossfire.
The students won a $1.6 million settlement, which, when added to the cost of the raid itself, comes to ... 70 million infinity dollars for every ounce of marijuana they kept off the street. And no one can argue with those numbers.
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For more mind-boggling buffoonery, check out 6 Real Police Screw-Ups That Put Chief Wiggum to Shame and 6 Judges Who Went Completely Insane on the Bench.
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