Chief speaks on officer’s arrest after dumping evidence from traffic stop

Vero Beach police Chief David Currey speaks at a news conference Thursday June 20, 2024, about the arrest of an officer. PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

VERO BEACH — An officer who tossed more than 20 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in a dumpster following a traffic stop now faces a felony charge, according to officials. The policeman initially placed the 19-year-old driver, who admitted to owning the narcotics, and his 17-year-old passenger in handcuffs, but then allowed the pair to leave, Vero Beach police Chief David Currey said.

Officer Christian Butterfield drove to the Vero Beach Police Department parking lot and placed the items in a large dumpster after the June 1 traffic stop, Currey said. The dumpster was collected by the city two days later, police said. The 44-minute traffic stop and subsequent events were captured on the officer’s body camera.

“A crime was committed. We arrest people in our community for doing the same thing,” Currey said during a Thursday news conference after reporters asked questions about alternative ways to discipline the policeman such as a suspension. Currey pointed to his badge, reminding everyone that sworn law enforcement officers have a duty to uphold the law, protect their communities and act with integrity.

“Two minutes after the traffic stop, (Butterfield) discarded (the evidence),” Currey said. “This is not a good day for any of us. As a police chief, this is the last thing I want to do – to arrest and terminate somebody.”

Butterfield, 31, was charged Wednesday with tampering with or destroying evidence. Butterfield was released the same day from the Indian River County Jail on a $10,000 bond.

Possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana is a felony offense. It was unclear if the driver was expected to face charges.

Police launched an internal investigation on June 3 against Butterfield to determine if he violated agency procedures. Then, officers began the criminal probe after looking at the body camera footage.

Currey said Butterfield, who was hired in October, had previous incidents where he failed to write reports on traffic violations while employed at the Vero Beach Police Department.

The traffic stop occurred about 1 a.m. June 1 in the 2200 block of 16th Avenue in Vero Beach. Butterfield’s supervisors reviewed hours of his body camera footage that captured the incident.

Butterfield, assigned to road patrol, pulled over a white Chevrolet Malibu after he smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle, Currey said. Two other officers then came on scene.

The footage showed Butterfield search the SUV where he found a bag of marijuana in the front compartment, joints in a small, black case and a vape pen, reports show. The driver asked Butterfield “can we really just dump it?” according to officials.

Butterfield eventually allowed the driver and passenger to leave. Butterfield resigned from the police department during the internal affairs investigation.

The investigation remains ongoing.

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