Ex-WVC PD officer accused of stealing morphine from dead cancer patient

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jul 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-10 22:26:46-04

WEST VALLEY CITY -- Police are investigating a former officer accused of stealing morphine from the home of a deceased cancer patient.

The Cottonwood Heights Police Department confirmed to FOX 13 it had conducted a criminal investigation into the officer, whose name was not disclosed. He is accused of stealing 22 morphine tablets from the home of a man who had died of cancer, Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo said.

The officer was one of several who responded last month to the man's home on a report of a death. While there, Russo told FOX 13, another officer claimed to have seen his colleague pocket the prescription painkillers. That officer immediately told his superiors, Russo said.

"It's a very difficult thing to do, when one officer has to have the burden of confronting a fellow officer on a criminal act, but he was very brave and we commend him for that," Russo said.

Police said the officer's superiors confronted him and he handed over the morphine. The accused officer resigned from the West Valley City Police Department the next day, Russo said. The Cottonwood Heights Police Department was asked by West Valley City police to investigate the case because of an obvious conflict of interest.

The officer's attorney, Lindsay Jarvis, told FOX 13 the officer had been going through some difficulties in his life and made a "poor decision."

"This is totally out of character for him and he is definitely not a 'dirty cop,'" she said. "He's a human being who made a bad decision."

The officer, a 10-year veteran of the West Valley City Police Department, was assigned to the patrol unit, the agency said. Jarvis would not say if he has ever been placed on administrative leave for any situation, but confirmed he had been undergoing evaluations for medical problems and had some "pretty significant things in his own life."

"There is no evidence that he has done this before and, in fact, he told the other officers when he was confronted that this has never happened," she said. "This is a moment where an impulse took over."

Assistant West Valley City Police Chief Mike Powell told FOX 13 the officer "resigned in lieu of termination and possible criminal charges."

"We're definitely disappointed in the actions of the single officer, but I can also say we're very proud of the officer and supervisors who took immediate and appropriate action in the situation," he said.

Cottonwood Heights police screened the case with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday. Charging decisions are expected next week.