Tahlequah Police Officer Admits To Stealing From Hispanic Drivers

Monday, August 29th 2011, 2:30 pm
By: News On 6

Richard Clark, NewsOn6.com and Ashli Sims, News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma --  A Tahlequah police officer has resigned after admitting to stealing cash from Hispanic drivers during traffic stops, according to a police report.

In a statement, Tahlequah Police Chief Clay Mahaney says the department filed a report with the Cherokee County District Attorney's office in reference to Officer James Johnson.

Chief Mahaney says Johnson resigned during the course of the investigation, which began on July 26, 2011.

On that date, Jose Guadalupe Galvan came to the department to file a complaint that Officer Johnson had stolen approximately $1,000 in cash from his wallet.

Galvan told a detective Johnson had pulled him over in May.  Galvan said that after he told Johnson he didn't have a green card or a license, Johnson made him place his wallet on the front seat then stand behind his vehicle while Johnson looked inside.

Galvan said he immediately noticed the money was missing, but was too scared to do anything about it.

The detective says Jose Raul Robledo Sanchez and Ever Narciso Chacon Hernandez tell similar stories. 

In all three cases, the men say Johnson activated his emergency lights to pull them over, then turned them off before getting out of his patrol car.  They also say he wore no name tag.

In the report, the detective handling the case says Johnson admitted that he stole cash from the men.  The detective says he asked Johnson how many times he pulled over Hispanic men and took their money and Johnson told him, "Maybe four, not really for sure."

Johnson told the detective he took a total of $800 to $1,000.

When the detective asked Johnson why he took the money he said, "You know I am single and that I have two boys that are everything to me,"  and that he spent the money on his children.  He also said he was sorry but says that didn't make it right.

"Taking advantage of a group of people that fear the police," said Bruce Niemi, with the Coalition for the American Dream.

Niemi is with a nonprofit group that advocates for human rights on immigration issues. He says the drivers probably didn't confront Johnson about the theft because they were afraid.

"That's the fear in the mind of the entire community that they or their relatives will suffer deportation," Niemi said.

Johnson has been charged with one count of grand larceny and two counts of petit larceny.