QCS Photo: Chelle Delaney
Sgt. Patricia Lopez and Patrolman Dennis Garica brought in two suspects and 116.2 pounds of marijuana on a routine traffic stop Sunday night.
A routine traffic stop on Sunday night turned out to be one of the Tucumcari Police Department’s biggest drug seizures and netted the department two arrests.
Seized was 116.2 pounds of marijuana — neatly shrink-wrapped by its packagers — with an estimated street value of more than $250,000, said Police Chief Larry Ham.
Credited with the arrests are Tucumcari patrolman Dennis Garcia and Sgt. Patricia Lopez.
Garcia said he was on a routine round of patrols near Interstate 40 and Exit 328 when he noticed that a silver, four-door 2006 Chevrolet Impala was following too closely behind another car on Tucumcari Boulevard.
He pulled the car over and the woman driver got out in the lot of the old Triple-T.
The car in front of her, driven by a male, also pulled over a little distance ahead of the woman’s car.
“She acted like she was going to go inside and trying to buy gas,” said Garcia, adding that the truck stop has been closed for some time.
“The woman also seemed nervous,” he said.
Then the car ahead of her left. “The guy seemed very suspicious because he left without telling her goodbye,” Garcia said.
Garcia radioed shift supervisor Lopez, and he called for backup to do a vehicle search. Garcia said when he lifted the trunk lid, there was the stash.
Lopez began searching for the other car and found it and the driver on Mountain Road between Route 66 and I-40.
The woman initially told Garcia she was on her way to New York because her mother was sick with cancer and that the other driver was her “Uncle Sam,” he said.
However, the other driver denied knowing the woman when he was questioned, Lopez said.
Arrested were Steve Anthony Rettie, 44, of New York, and Dominique Stephens, 30, of the Los Angeles area, said Garcia and Lopez.
The two appeared in Magistrate Court and were charged with trafficking of a controlled substance and conspiracy. If convicted, they face up to six years in jail and $10,000 in fines. Bond was set at $50,000 for each.
Neither Rettie nor Stephens resisted arrest.
Samples from the marijuana cache will be sent to the Department of Public Safety for testing and will be processed for evidence for court, Ham said. The remainder will be sent to Clovis or Santa Fe where it will be destroyed in an approved facility, he said.
Ham credits the officers’ savvy to workshops they participated in at the Desert Snow Highway Drug Interdiction program in Laughlin, Nev., which Garcia and Patrolman John Howard attended in June. Lopez and Officer Derrek Shaw have also attended, he said.
Funding for the officers to attend Desert Storm is through the Region V Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force and its members, Ham said.