Lorena Garcia was arrested on Jan. 26, 2020 and charged with criminal possession of a dangerous drug, methamphetamine, a felony.
Garcia, a resident of Richland County, was also cited for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and operating a commercial vehicle without proof of valid insurance.
Garcia was pulled over on or about 1:18 p.m. on Jan. 26 by Officer Tanner Gomke of the Sidney Police Department. He was on routine patrol at the time, according to court records.
A court affidavit filed by Charity McLarty, deputy county attorney for Richland County, stated that the police officer pulled Garcia over because she was driving a commercial vehicle within the 600 block of South Lincoln Avenue. Sidney city code prohibits the operation of any commercial truck, bus, tractor “or any combination thereof” from being driven at that location.
Officer Gomke reported that he made a U-turn and proceeded to pull over the “tractor” Garcia was alleged to be driving on South Lincoln Avenue. Gomke stated in his report that the tractor driver continued traveling south, even after he turned on his police car overhead emergency lights.
Garcia allegedly continued driving for an estimated 45 seconds, eventually stopping in the parking lot of a local auto-parts store.
“Officer Gomke knows through his training and experience that when people are involved in criminal activity, specifically narcotics activity, and are encountered by Law Enforcement on a traffic stop, they commonly do not immediately pull over,” a court affidavit, filed by the deputy county attorney, stated.
Suspects typically use the delay to “hide narcotics, drug paraphernalia and/or fruits of the crime,” the court document continued.
After stopping the vehicle and questioning the driver, who was identified as Lorena Garcia, Gomke reported he informed the driver why he had stopped her.
“Garcia acknowledged she knew she was not supposed to be operating the vehicle on the city streets and apologized to Officer Gomke,” the affidavit stated.
Garcia reportedly told the officer that her daughter was in the emergency room of a hospital and that she was going home to retrieve medications for her daughter.
After she was unable to provide her driver’s licence, vehicle registration receipt or proof of vehicle insurance, Gomke stated he asked Garcia to join him at his police vehicle to complete paperwork.
“Officer Gomke found her behavior suspicious,” the court affidavit stated. “Garcia eventually exited the vehicle and walked back to his patrol vehicle bringing her nicotine device with her. Prior to getting inside, she began using the nicotine device.”
The court affidavit explained that police officers are trained to view the use of nicotine-based tobacco products during a traffic stop suspiciously because people may be “trying to mask the odor of narcotics or alcoholic beverages, or it is their last chance to use the nicotine product before they go to jail.”
After Gomke asked Garcia several questions about possible prior arrests or convictions, and based on her behavior, the court records state that the police officer suspected she was “being deceptive.”
The officer ran a driver’s license check and discovered the suspect had licenses issued from California and Texas. Gomke learned that Garcia did not have a valid commercial driver license, which is required to operate the vehicle she was driving, according to the report.
After asking additional questions about possible prior convictions, Gomke reportedly asked Garcia for consent to search the vehicle.
“Garcia eventually called out to Officer Gomke and offered to allow” him to search the vehicle with her, the report stated.
The search eventually led to the discovery of a purple-colored purse on the bed in the sleeper area of the vehicle, according to the report. Inside the purse, Gomke allegedly discovered a black sunglasses case containing a glass methamphetamine pipe, according to the affidavit.
After the vehicle was seized and driven back to the Sidney Police Department at the Richland County Law and Justice Center, evidence seized by the police was processed.
“The residue in the pipe tested presumptive positive for methamphetamine,” the court affidavit stated, noting that Gomke had also discovered a metal pill container, which was found to contain “shards of methamphetamine.”
Garcia was booked into jail and ordered to make an initial appearance in court for the felony charge of Criminal Possession of Dangerous Drugs (Methamphetamine). If found guilty, she could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Garcia was also charged with failure to carry proof or exhibit insurance in the vehicle she was driving.
Initial Appearance in the 7th Judicial District Court in Sidney was set for Monday, Feb. 10, 2020.
Garcia was expected to be ordered to appear in district court for an Entry Plea on Feb. 24, 2020.