A Georgia sheriff’s office was forced to admit one of its deputies may have crossed the line when he pulled an elderly couple over without cause and accused them of drug trafficking.
Charles Tharp, his wife and their dog were driving home to North Carolina after a family vacation in Texas when a Walton County Sheriff’s deputy pulled them over on the highway.
The deputy normally works in the narcotics division but was working routine traffic patrol when he stopped the couple.
“It just seemed a little unusual because we’re not speeding and we’re always careful drivers,” the 69-year-old Tharp told WGCL.
The deputy said he pulled the couple over because the windows of their Toyota SUV had too much tint.
“I thought that was awfully strange since these are factory-tinted Toyota windows and it seems so peculiar that someone would stop you for something like that,” Tharp said.
The officer used a device to measure the darkness of the windows and claimed they were illegal. When Tharp got home he took the SUV to his Toyota dealership which tested the windows and determined they were compliant.
But the deputy appeared to have more on his mind than windows. He pulled the Tharps out of their vehicle and began questioning Charles, who is a cancer patient.
“Methamphetamines? Heroin? Ecstasy?” the cop is heard asking him.
The deputy interrogated the couple for 20 minutes.
“I don’t honestly know what the stereotype looks like for a heroin smuggler, but I don’t think a couple of senior citizens driving a handicapped license plate car with their little cocker spaniel really looks like we’re much of a threat to anybody,” Tharp told WGCL
The deputy who conducted the stop is trained as a narcotics officers whose “primary function is to look for criminal activity, maybe drugs,” Walton County Chief Deputy Sheriff Keith Brooks told WGCL.
“Our deputy is trained to take an extra step,” Brooks said. “He is actually attached to our narcotics unit and he is primarily support for them. However, when he is out on the road and not supporting them, he conducts traffic stops.”
But he did admit that the officer appeared to be in the wrong.
“In hindsight, maybe we did go a little far,” he said, while adding “we can all learn from our mistakes.”
The entire experience left a bad taste in Tharp’s mouth.
“I tell you what, I respect the law less today than I did before,” he said.