Warning signs, amnesty boxes mean fewer drug arrests at OMF

OKEECHOBEE — After one day of the Okeechobee Music Fest, nine people were booked into the Okeechobee County Jail on felony drug charges.

That number pales when compared to the 2016 OMF when 26 people were arrested on felony drug charges on the event’s opening night.

This year’s festival began Thursday, March 2, and will end Sunday, March 5. Event organizers said over 36,000 tickets have been sold, and the festival has been sold out. Last year, OMF drew 30,000.

In all, over 60 felony drug arrests were made at OMF2016. However, 40 of those had to be dropped by prosecutors.

Assistant state attorney Ashley Albright said those cases had to be dropped because they weren’t based on probable cause.

“The cases I cannot prosecute are all administrative-type searches done at the entry point by law enforcement at the request of event organizers,” said the prosecutor following the 2016 festival. “But, because the searches were done as administrative searches they cannot be prosecuted.”

So this year, things are being done differently.

For instance, when revelers enter the music fest signs clearly warn them that narcotic K-9s are being used. Then, after passing that sign, festival-goers will have to go by a container that is clearly marked “amnesty box.” Next to that sign is a marked and padlocked trash can where people can dispose of contraband with no questions asked. This area is not manned by law enforcement, although it is checked periodically.

Beyond these areas are K-9 teams that are working the vehicles as they wait in line to enter the festival. The drug-sniffing K-9s walk past the stopped vehicles and if the dog ‘alerts’ to a vehicle, then that vehicle is escorted to another area where it is searched.

Which is what happened to the nine who were arrested Thursday.

Those arrested and their charges were:

• Maurice Cole Burnham, 21, S.W. Dekle Road, Lake City. He was charged with the felonies of possession of a controlled substance (MDMA) and possession of marijuana resin. He was also charged with the misdemeanor of possession of marijuana under 20 grams. His bond was set at $11,000.

• Alexander Phillip Demetriou, 27, Georginia Ave., Ypsilanti, Mich. He was charged with the felonies of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of a controlled substance (marijuana resin), possession of marijuana over 20 grams and trafficking in cocaine. He was also arrested on a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond was set at $27,000.

• Barrick Christian Frazier 33, Beaver Road, Bluff City, Tenn. He was arrested on a felony charge of possession of marijuana over 20 grams, and a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond was set at $1,000.

• Khristopher Harper, 24, S.W. Logan Lane, Lake City. He was charged with the felonies of possession of a controlled substance (MDMA) and possession of a controlled substance (marijuana resin). He was also arrested on a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana under 20 grams. His bond was set at $11,000.

• Jalen Denzel Lockhart, 24, Peach Tree Road N.E., Atlanta. He was charged with the felonies of possession of a controlled substance (MDMA) and trafficking in cocaine. He was also arrested on a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond was set at $21,000.

• Daniel Joseph Long, 19, N.W. 16th St., Margate. He was arrested on felony charges of possession of a controlled substance (MDMA), possession of a controlled substance (LSD) and possession of marijuana over 20 grams. He was also charged with the misdemeanor of possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond was set at $16,000.

• Kenneth Thomas Lyons, 24, Cliff Landings, La Grange, Ill. He was arrested on felony charges of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, trafficking in cocaine, possession of a controlled substance (marijuana resin) and possession of marijuana over 20 grams. He was also charged with the misdemeanor of possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond was set at $27,000.

• Sarah Marie Tate, 22, Sugar Loaf Club Drive, Duluth, Ga. She was arrested on felony charges of possession of a controlled substance (MDMA) and trafficking in cocaine. She was also arrested on a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond was set at $21,000.

• Jared Chase Zim, 20, was arrested on a felony charge of possession of marijuana over 20 grams and a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond was set at $5,500.

An arrest report by Deputy Kristin Gray, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), stated that when she searched the vehicle occupied by Demetriou and Lyons she and her K-9 Remi found: 3.95 ounces of suspected powder cocaine; 4.90 pounds of suspected marijuana; 2.63 pounds of suspected marijuana resin; scales; and, over 100 small plastic baggies.

As for Lockhart and Tate, OCSO Deputy Jessica Henderson stated in her report 88 grams of suspected cocaine and 35 grams of suspected MDMA were found in their 2004 Lexus.

All of the arrest reports pointed out that all of the seized drugs were tested and those tests all indicated positive results for the presence of illegal narcotics.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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