OCSO stayed busy at music festival

OKEECHOBEE — The lights are off, the amplifiers are silent and most of the weekend’s revelers at the Okeechobee Music Festival have left — all, that is, but two who remain as guests of the county.

A total of 68 people were arrested at the four-day event and the majority of those were taken into custody on felony drug charges.

And while as many as six people who were at the four-day festival were arrested on drug trafficking charges Major Noel Stephen, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), said he was pleased with the way things turned out.

“I thought it would be much worse, honestly,” he said of the festival that attracted over 30,000 people to its inaugural event. “Everyone was very respectful.”

But, two young men who are being held in the Okeechobee County Jail are anything but pleased. They are being held on bond and are facing felony drug trafficking charges.

Joel Hernandez

Joel Hernandez

One of those men is Joel Hernandez of Okeechobee.

An arrest report by OCSO Deputy Bart Potter stated Hernandez was initially arrested for stealing a golf cart that belonged to festival organizers. He was taken to jail and as he was being taken out of the OCSO patrol unit a vacuum-sealed baggie was found at his feet on the floorboard, stated the deputy’s report.

When the white substance in the baggie was tested, that test allegedly indicated a positive result for the presence of cocaine. The suspected coke weighed 34.2 grams.

Hernandez was charged with trafficking in cocaine and is being held on a total bond of $51,500.

Keelye Lockhart

Keelye Lockhart

Keelye Lockhart, 25, is being held on a bond of $100,000 and is charged with trafficking in amphetamines.

OCSO Detective Corporal Ted Van Deman arrested Lockhart and during a search of the man the detective reportedly found: 22 plastic baggies containing a powder that tested positive for amphetamine; and, 103 capsules containing suspected amphetamine.

The seized narcotics weighed a total of 38.4 grams, stated the detective’s arrest report.

Lockhart reportedly refused to give the detective his name or address. His identity was learned after his fingerprints were taken at the jail.

Also arrested on trafficking charges was Bruce Minyard Bass of Lithonia, Ga.

Bruce M. Bass

Bruce M. Bass

He is charged with trafficking in a controlled substance (xanax) and trafficking in cocaine. He is also charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell and possession of marijuana with intent to sell.

Bass, 37, was found to have in his possession: 6.71-pounds of pot; 21.2 grams of meth; 15.9 grams of xanax; and, 54 grams of cocaine.

Bass’ bond was set at $130,000. Jail records show he has been released on bond.

According to OCSO Deputy Brian Cross’ arrest report some of the marijuana was in liquid form while some of the pot was found in cookies.

All of the suspected drugs were tested and indicated positive results, added the deputy.

K-9 Max, from the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, alerted to the drugs that were found in a van being driven by Bass.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, Maj. Stephen said law enforcement found drugs they don’t normally see around Okeechobee. Those drugs included 77 grams of mushrooms that were taken from a Satellite Beach, Fla., woman. Law enforcement also seized ecstasy, mollies and liquid meth.

“We don’t experience a lot of that here. We were shocked by the amounts,” added Maj. Stephen.

The major also said some of the folks who were arrested were also “very creative” in the way they tried to smuggle their drugs into the festival. Some instances of their “creativity” were baking marijuana into cookies and brownies, and hollowing out a loaf of bread then putting the drugs inside.

But, all in all, the festival went off well and many of those who attended said they hope it becomes an annual event in Okeechobee. Still, pointed out the major, there were some local folks who were less than thrilled with the decibel levels of the music.

“I know there are some locals with complaints. We want to hold a public forum to hear those complaints and then see what can be done,” Maj. Stephen said.

A date and time of that forum will be announced.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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