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.
“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.
The Pueblo Police Department has opened an internal investigation into the body cam incident.
The alleged police misconduct surfaced after the local prosecutor texted Jensen to make sure his report matched the body cam footage.
According to the Pueblo Chieftan:
Jensen replied back, saying, “For the search, the body cam shows different than the report because it was. Prior to turning my body cam on I conducted the search. Once I found the (expletive referring to evidence), I stepped back, called (a fellow officer), then activated my body cam and walked the courts through it.”