PAW PAW TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Body camera video shows how a Michigan State Police trooper made the largest fentanyl bust during a traffic stop in state history – after stopping a vehicle driven by a Fresno County man.
On March 7 near Paw Paw, a community around 60 miles south of Grand Rapids, officials say the trooper noticed a gray Chevy driving erratically and crossing the center lane multiple times with a cracked windshield and a black frame blocking his license plate.
The trooper stopped the driver, 25-year-old Brahajan Martinez-Garcia from Five Points, Fresno County. After examining his driver’s license, she asked him to step out of the car, the body camera shows. With booming noise on the highway, the trooper took him inside her squad car.
“Sorry, you’re not under arrest,” the trooper told Martinez-Garcia. “I can’t hear out there. It’s loud. I don’t want to have to yell.”
As she explained why she pulled him over, Martinez-Garcia shook, the video shows.
“I’m a little nervous because never pulled over before, you know,” he told the trooper.
Later, the trooper told her colleague that she knew something was off.
“He got the really dry mouth,” she said. “Shaking.”
She asked Martinez-Garcia if there was anything illegal in his car. He replied “nothing.”
Speaking in English, Martinez claimed he was driving from California in his mother’s car to pick up his wife and daughter in Michigan. But when she asked if any bags in his car don’t belong to him, he couldn’t understand her.
“Nobody else put anything in the vehicle or anything?” the trooper asked.
Martinez-Garcia didn’t respond.
“It’s all your stuff in the vehicle?” she asked.
“No,” he responded.
“It’s not all your stuff in the vehicle?” she asked again.
“No,” he said again.
Reflecting later to her colleague, the trooper remarked that Martinez-Garcia perfectly understood her earlier in the conversation.
“As soon as I asked him about luggage, he did not understand me,” she said. “And I’m like, ‘Man, we made it through this entire conversation and now you can’t speak no hablo English.’ Seriously?”
The trooper got a translator on the phone. He said he heard a different story from Martinez-Garcia.
“There’s a lot,” the trooper said on the phone with the translator. “But yeah, there’s a different answer that he gave me.”
Her suspicion growing, the trooper told Martinez-Garcia she was going to search his car. She asked him if he wanted to stay in the cruiser or come outside while the search was taking place. Martinez-Garcia chose the latter and consented to a body search.
When Michigan State Police searched the front seats of his vehicle, they found hundreds of dollars in cash.
When the trooper dug through the back seat and found a red bag, she found even more.
Inside, the trooper found a clear bag containing a large amount of a white substance.
“Go hook him,” the trooper told her colleague. “Go hook him. Let’s go.”
She wasn’t exactly sure what drug she found but there was a lot of it.
“I got at least 4 kilos,” she said.
Martinez-Garcia was handcuffed and placed under arrest. He was taken to a police post nearby.
The trooper initially thought she found cocaine.
“At least 4 kilos, I think?” she said. “Four bricks in that bag. I think probably could be coke? Yeah, I don’t know.”
She actually intercepted 4 kilos worth of fentanyl connected to the Sinaloa cartel in the middle of being trafficked across the country. It’s the largest fentanyl bust resulting from a traffic stop in state history, Michigan State Police say.
Troopers then learned of two more kilos elsewhere in Michigan. Michigan State Police say in total, the six kilos of fentanyl could have created 3 million laced pills with a street value of $9 million.
Thanks to the arrest, that same day, state police raided a home in Madison Heights, near Detroit, finding 900 grams of fentanyl worth $70,000.
Fentanyl coming on highways, through mail
Fentanyl, one of the most dangerous drugs around, is increasingly being trafficked from Mexico across the United States. First Lt. Richard Pazder, who leads Michigan State Police’s Southwest Enforcement Team, says the drug is produced in clandestine laboratories in Mexico and smuggled across the southwest border.
“It’s not just coming through our freeways. A lot of the times it’s being shipped directly into our communities by mail or FedEx or UPS,” Pazder explained. “This is a big problem.”
Trooper: “Just people who make mistakes”
As police dogs searched Martinez-Garcia’s vehicle, he was left alone with the trooper.
“Long day, huh?” he asked the trooper.
“Long day,” she replied. “It already has been. It’s already 10 (a.m.).”
In one of their final exchanges before Martinez-Garcia was taken away in handcuffs, the trooper said, “I don’t think there’s such thing as bad people. Just people who make mistakes.”
“Yeah,” Martinez-Garcia agreed.
“Everybody has their own reasons for doing things, you know?” she told him. “I try not to say bad people. ‘Cause I don’t think that’s true for the most part.”
When the trooper stepped out of the car, Martinez-Garcia stayed alone, crying, leaning forward and wrapping his hands around his head.
He was booked in Van Buren County jail the next day.
During his arraignment, Martinez-Garcia was formally charged with a felony count of possession of more than 1,000 grams of fentanyl with intent to deliver.
“(MSP) provided information that these controlled substances and its transport was connected to the Sinaloa cartel,” Judge Michael McKay said while discussing factors in setting bond. “They also stated that it was enough fentanyl to kill 2.5 million people, which is roughly a third of the population of the state of Michigan, which may make Mr. Garcia the most dangerous person in our jail that he was furthering that health crisis.”