Darien PD “Smacks” Down Drug Traffickers

As the heroin epidemic claims more lives, busts like this are all the more satisfying

By Robert J. Kicklighter  |   Jul 22, 2017
Note: This is not the heroin seized in this story. Photo WikiCommons, black tar heroin from Mexico.

The scourge of drug trafficking, that favors violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage.

–Pope Francis

One-minute shy of midnight on July 3, 2017, the efforts to thwart drug trafficking through a small and beautiful Georgia community paid off as officers from the Darien Police Department, Darien, Ga., intercepted one of the nation’s deadliest drugs.

While operating a Stalker XLR LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) speed measurement device, at the 48-mile marker on Interstate 95, Sgt. Joseph Creswell, an eight-year veteran with the DPD, conducted a traffic stop on a silver 2016 Chrysler 300.

Creswell determined the Chrysler 300 was traveling 90 mph in a posted 70 mph speed zone. Per Georgia law, the vehicle was classified as a “Super Speeder,” a dangerous threat to other motorists in the area, speeding at 75 mph or more on a two-lane road or 85 mph and above on any road or highway in the State of Georgia.

Upon stopping the vehicle, Creswell identified the occupants as Zanaba Manet (driver) and Jonathan Manet (front seat passenger), both of Miami, Fla. While speaking with the Manet’s, Creswell smelled the odor of burnt marijuana emitting from the passenger compartment. And, to his dismay, Creswell saw three small children, including an infant, sitting unrestrained in the backseat of the vehicle.

At this point, the traffic stop evolved into a criminal investigation. Creswell, qualified by training and experience to recognize the distinctive odor of burnt marijuana, reasonably inferred that marijuana would be discovered during the stop. Per the courts, Creswell’s detection of the smell of marijuana would have supported a search warrant, although not required during a traffic stop (State v. Kazmierczak).

After removing the Manets from the vehicle, Creswell advised them he could smell the odor of burnt marijuana coming from the vehicle. Creswell then interviewed Jonathan Manet, who voluntarily admitted he smoked marijuana before the traffic stop. Jonathan Manet also revealed the vehicle contained additional amounts of marijuana inside the passenger door. “While talking with Jonathan Manet,” said Creswell, “I smelled the odor of burnt marijuana emanating from him. During our conversation, he avoided eye contact with me.”

Under the totality of the circumstances and based upon his training and experience, Creswell believed there was a fair probability that Jonathan Manet possessed marijuana on his person. Upon searching Jonathan Manet, Creswell’s suspicions were confirmed. Creswell discovered a transparent plastic baggy that contained suspected marijuana in Jonathan Manet’s front left pocket (Caffey v. The State).

The discovery of marijuana in Jonathan Manet’s front left pocket was inevitable after Creswell conducted an authorized search of the Manet’s vehicle. During the search, Creswell found marijuana in the passenger door of the car, along with a digital scale, coinciding with Jonathan Manet’s admission.

Still, Creswell’s training led him to believe there was more contraband in the vehicle beyond misdemeanor marijuana. Creswell’s suspicions were substantiated as he discovered a brown powder like substance in two transparent plastic bags hidden in a natural void under the vehicle’s gear shift.

Field testing of the brown powder confirmed Creswell’s worst fears, approximately 14.25 ounces of heroin. Further, Creswell discovered items consistent with trafficking narcotics, to include a fraudulent Florida driver’s license in the name of Zanaba Manet. The Manets were arrested and transported to the McIntosh County Detention Center, and their children were released to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

As reported by the U.S. Department of Justice, heroin is commonly associated with violent crimes, to include murder, and Miami is one of the major transportation hubs and transshipment points for heroin smuggled into the U.S. from South America. South American and Mexican criminals rely on heroin as a primary source of revenue, and the drug is responsible for the most drug-related deaths in Florida.

As heroin use is on the rise in the U.S., the price of the drug varies from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the type and location. Along with the increased use, the Centers for Disease Control reported approximately 33,000 deaths related to heroin use in the United States in 2015, a steady growth from 2010.

Based on this information, Creswell and officers from the Darien Police Department, not only saved the lives of the Manet’s children and motorists traveling north on Interstate 95, but they possibly saved thousands of lives across the U.S. by taking this poison from American streets.

After the traffic stop, Lt. Robert Keith, of the Darien Police Department, took possession of the narcotics, later turning all evidence over to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The DEA is actively involved in the investigation and may pursue federal charges against the Manet’s.

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Robert J. Kicklighter

Robert J. Kicklighter is an experienced educator with a background in criminal law instruction, law enforcement, security administration, and high-performance management. Kicklighter has a PhD. in Public Safety, Forensics, and Homeland Security and a master’s in Criminal Justice. He was the 2002 DUI Officer of the Year. He is a senior Georgia POST instructor and is currently the Law Academy Director at Savannah-Chatham County Public School System and a criminal law professor at Strayer University and Savannah Technical College.

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