Failure to wear seatbelt leads to drug bust

OKEECHOBEE — A man was arrested after he pulled out of a store parking lot without fastening his seatbelt first and was then reportedly found to have drugs in his possession. He was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of Oxycodone and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. His bond was set at $30,000.

Ralph Gene Harmon

On Tuesday, Aug. 13, a member of the Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force conducted a traffic stop on a green Dodge pickup truck because the driver was reportedly not wearing his seatbelt. The driver was identified as Ralph Gene Harmon, 52, of Kenansville. When the detective made contact with him, he explained to him that he stopped him because he was not wearing his seatbelt, and Harmon reportedly told the detective he had just pulled out of the store. The report notes Harmon’s hands appeared to be shaking as he held his registration.

The detective then asked if there were any weapons or drugs in the vehicle and Harmon reportedly denied consent to search the vehicle. City Police Officer Luis Rojas arrived to assist and a K9 officer was requested as backup. When the K9 officer arrived, both Harmon and his passenger were asked to exit the vehicle and the narcotics-trained K9 conducted a free-air sniff to attempt to detect the odor of illegal narcotics around the exterior of the vehicle. The K9 alerted to the truck, and Harmon was asked to empty his pockets. In his pockets, they allegedly found methamphetamine, Oxycodone and Morphine. He was arrested and transported to the Okeechobee County Jail. He was also issued a citation for not wearing a seatbelt, and his truck was turned over to his wife, who is the registered owner.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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