09/12/04 — Public Record

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Public Record

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 12, 2004 2:03 AM

Mount Olive police

officers suspended

MOUNT OLIVE -- Three Mount Olive police officers have been suspended from their jobs while the state continues its investigation into allegations that the law officers took money from Hispanic males during traffic stops.

Court documents, released Friday, said that one officer took over $300 in marked money from the wallet of a State Bureau of Investigation agent working undercover in Mount Olive.

The officers, Sgt. Joshua Joseph Ehnert, Senior Patrolman Freddie Southerland Jr. and Patrolman David Johnson, have not been arrested or charged yet with any crime.

Their suspension, without pay, is indefinite.

Ehnert had been an officer with the town for four years, Southerland for two years and Johnson for one year.

It's not yet known how many people the officers allegedly victimized.

Mount Olive Police Chief Emmett Ballree said he received third-party information in August about possible involvement of some officers targeting some members of the community.

A search warrant filed by the SBI said that the Mount Olive Police Department received "numerous complaints from Latino males" that they had been stopped by Ehnert.

SBI agent R.M. Suarez was sent to work undercover, and last week was stopped on Church Street in Mount Olive.

Suarez, who was carrying a wallet containing $310 in bills that the SBI had provided, was taken to the police station and issued a ticket.

The SBI affidavit said that Ehnert kept the wallet and the money. Copies of the bills were attached to the affidavit.

Southerland and Johnson weren't mentioned in the douments.

Authorities are seeking information from anyone who might have information about illegal activities.

Breaking and entering

A Hispanic man and his wife reported that their house, on Grantham School Road in Mount Olive, was broken into Friday morning.

Ricardo Espinosa-Elizarraraz told sheriff deputies that someone broke the bedroom window of the house to gain entry. The home was ransacked, but it wasn't known if any items were missing because the couple were in the process of moving out of the house.