City, RPD speak of Coon arrest

April 15, 2011 • Local News

City and Roswell Police Department officials spoke publicly Thursday regarding the arrest of one of the department’s own officers, who was charged Wednesday with nine felonies, including identity theft and possession of a controlled substance.

Officials confirmed that Justin Coon, a nearly fiveyear veteran of the department and son to Chaves County Sheriff Rob Coon, is no longer employed by the city. Coon turned himself in to police custody after a warrant was issued for his arrest, which stemmed from an investigation following a March 24 report of fraud at a Roswell Walgreens Pharmacy.

Prior to working at the city, Coon had a nearly sixyear career with the New Mexico State Police. A single fourth-degree felony could carry up to a $5,000 fine and between one and two years of jail time, officials said. “It’s an unfortunate incident for everybody here,” said RPD Deputy Chief Jody Scifres during a press conference.

“We just want to affirm to everyone that we take these matters very seriously,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter who it is. If something happens, a criminal act, we’re going to investigate it and properly pursue (it) — and that’s what we did here.” Coon was booked into the Chaves County Detention Center Wednesday night at 5:48 p.m. and bonded out at 6:15 p.m., jail officials said.

His bond was set at $5,000. Among [auth] other accusations in the 16-page criminal complaint against Coon, he is accused of attempting to purchase pharmaceutical drugs containing ephedrine with a driver’s license he obtained from an individual he previously arrested.

Additionally, he is charged with removing medication, including Oxycodone, from inside the homes of at least two houses of which he responded to calls while on duty, according to the complaint.

“Each of us will be held accountable for our actions and what we do,” said City Manager Larry Fry. “We certainly have full confidence in the Roswell Police Department to take care of all of the circumstances and situations that arise within the city.”

Police were tipped off of Coon’s attempt to use a fraudulent license to purchase ephedrine products, which New Mexico limits the amount individuals of a household can buy in a 30-day period, by the mother of the person whose license Coon attempted to use.

The mother works at the Walgreens Pharmacy where Coon presented the license and she and her son alerted police of the incident on March 24.

The next day, Coon was placed on administrative leave with pay. The complaint indicates that police immediately recognized Coon from the store’s surveillance videos.

Police say in a 30-day time frame, Coon purchased 9.6 grams of ephedrine from five different stores in three separate cities, including Roswell, Albuquerque and Good Year, Ariz.

Additionally, they accuse him of enlisting the help of at least two other police officers in purchasing ephedrine products, according to the complaint.

Officials declined to comment on whether other officers are being investigated for criminal or police policy misconduct, including Coon’s girlfriend and coworker, Officer Stephanie Nappier, who lied to investigators, according to the criminal complaint.

Nappier told police that she herself used the ephedrine product, Bronkaid, but that Coon was not aware of the fact. Surveillance video showed that Nappier and Coon purchased “what appeared to be … Bronkaid” together during a visit to Walgreens.

“She’s an active employee with the Roswell Police Department,” said Scifres, declining to give additional details and adding that no officers are on paid leave at this time.

Following Coon being placed on paid leave, he consented to a search of his home where police found “17 empty blister packets of Bronkaid, … 25 empty blister packets of an unknown brand ephedrine medication,” and other controlled substances, according to the complaint. Police found additional empty Bronkaid blister packets following a search of his police cruiser.

When pressed by reporters during the news conference on whether Sherif f Rob Coon had been in contact with city and department officials, Scifres and Fry acknowledged they had been in contact with the sheriff, but declined to give any details of their discussions.

“We’re not going to comment on that,” Scifres said. “We talked with the sheriff, I talked with the sheriff, but I’m not going to comment any further on that.”

Roswell’s mayor used the press conference to assure residents that appropriate action was taken in the matter and that people should have confidence in the integrity of top city officials. “I think the reason that we’re standing here is because the police department is accountable (and) because they do hold … their staf f responsible,” said Mayor Del Jurney.

“When you have a number of employees, you’re always going to have one or two that make bad decisions,” he said. “I think that, to me, the message is very clear that the city of Roswell is going to hold their employees responsible and accountable.”

The Chaves County district attorney, Janetta Hicks recused herself of the criminal prosecution and the matter has been referred to Kirby Wills, senior trial prosecutor for the Otero County district attorney.

Justin Coon is charged with two counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, to wit ephedrine; five counts of obtaining drug precursor by subterfuge; one count of possession of a controlled substance, to wit Oxycodone; one count of identity theft; and one count of embezzlement under $250.

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