Tallahassee Cop Cites Policy as Rationale for Emptying Sealed Bottle of Alcohol and Planting It in Black Man’s Car, But No Such Policy Exists.

Posted by Yasmeen Freightman | Published on: April 4, 2024 Atlanta Black Star/News

Reprinted by Imanche Sunday, April 16, 2024

Body camera video shows a police officer in Tallahassee, Florida opening a sealed bottle of alcohol she found in a Black man’s car, pouring it on the ground, then throwing it back into the car before charging the man with DUI.

Our Tallahassee obtained footage from the night of May 7, 2023, when 26-year-old officer Kiersten Oliver pulled over 56-year-old Calvin Riley, Sr. It has since gone viral on social media.

Oliver’s body camera shows her approaching Riley’s white Mercedes Benz and speaking to him for a while before calling for backup.

When Officer Margaret Mueth arrives, Oliver tells her she believes Riley is under the influence of something.

“I feel like I’m getting some indications, I’m not really sure. I can’t really smell anything right now,” Oliver says to Mueth.

Oliver returns to Riley’s vehicle to ask if he would submit to a voluntary field sobriety test. When Riley refuses, Oliver asks him to exit his car and detains him.

While Riley is escorted to her police vehicle, Oliver tells him she smells marijuana on his car and asks if he’s been smoking weed, which Riley denies. Mueth also questions Riley, asking him if someone had been smoking in the car earlier that day.

Our Tallahassee reported that both officers were heard discussing whether there was enough evidence to charge Riley with DUI. Mueth explained they couldn’t charge him for refusing a voluntary sobriety test.

“Is there enough, like before that?” Oliver is heard asking Mueth. “There’s nothing we can do for the signal one portion of it? Because he refused?”

After Riley is detained, Oliver searches his car. She found no weed but did spot a sealed liquor bottle in the car’s front seat.

In the bodycam footage, she’s heard opening the bottle and pouring its contents onto the street before throwing it back into Riley’s car. Viewers can clearly hear audible noises of the seal being broken and the alcohol being poured. Mueth’s bodycam footage also clearly showed Oliver pouring out the liquid.

Another officer, Sergeant Brian Smith, arrived at the scene and video shows all three cops discussing the traffic stop.

“Did y’all search the car? Nothing in there?” Smith asks Mueth.

“No, well, OK, so, he had a bunch of alcohol stashed in there, but,” Mueth says.

“Nothing opened?” Smith asks.

“Yeah, open,” Mueth says. “In his, like, in the center console, he had a mixed drink, and then under his knee, he had like, um, a little bottle of vodka tucked away.”

Neither Oliver nor Mueth is seen removing or smelling that open container in Riley’s center console on the bodycam footage. Riley claimed it contained Arizona Green Tea. He did have multiple bottles of that brand of tea in his car that night.

The arrest report from that stop noted an open container was the reason for the DUI. One officer also noted smelling alcohol on Riley’s breath. Riley did tell officers he had a couple of drinks in a bar that night. He was arrested on probable cause of driving under the influence.

In a pre-trial hearing, Oliver admitted to opening and emptying the bottle of alcohol she found in Riley’s car. She alleged there was a police department policy that prohibited officers from impounding liquids as evidence. Our Tallahassee reported that no such policy exists.

During her second deposition, public defender’s handed her a copy the policy she cited. However, she was unable to point to any section that called for her to impound liquids and resorted to saying “I don’t remember” at least sixteen times during the deposition, Our Tallahassee reports.

Riley’s trial begins Friday. He said he missed work because of the arrest and, after paying legal fees and his bond, he missed a couple of car payments, forcing him to turn his car back in to the dealership.

Riley was driving with a suspended license that night. It was his first offense. According to Our Tallahassee, police officers can decide whether to ticket or arrest someone driving with a suspended license if it’s that person’s first offense. If that individual commits a second offense, the officers must arrest them.

The judge overseeing Riley’s case decided that his trial won’t include body camera evidence and statements made before Riley was given his Miranda rights. He was detained and questioned for nine minutes before being mirandized. However, the footage of the alcohol bottle will be included, despite a public defender’s pre-trial motion to strike it. Riley’s attorney argued that evidence of the unsealed bottle provided the basis for the case against him.

“I heard what I thought was a seal being broken,” Judge Jones said. “And one of the officers testified that she thinks that that’s what she heard as well. That’s going to be up for the jury to decide what they think.”

The Tallahassee Police Department has denied any allegations of misconduct.

Tallahassee NAACP president Mutaqee Akbar told WCTV that regardless of the officer’s intent she needs face consequences for her actions.

“I think they need to hold that officer accountable for whether it was an unintentional mistake or just a mistake,” Akbar told the local outlet. “There needs to be, she needs to be, held accountable for that. Because I think when officers are held accountable, that that brings more trust to the community.”

One thought on “Tallahassee Cop Cites Policy as Rationale for Emptying Sealed Bottle of Alcohol and Planting It in Black Man’s Car, But No Such Policy Exists.

  • April 16, 2024 at 1:46 pm

    The judge in Riley’s trial has made the decision to exclude the body camera evidence and any statements made before his Miranda rights were granted. However, a key piece of evidence that will be considered is the footage showing an unsealed alcohol bottle. This pivotal piece of the puzzle could potentially sway the outcome of the trial, shedding light on the events leading up to the incident. As both the prosecution and defense prepare to present their case, the inclusion of this footage will undoubtedly play a crucial role in unraveling the truth behind the charges laid upon Riley.


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