Trooper Steven Ortiz
On April 6, 2002 at approximately 11:48 a.m., Trooper Ortiz was driving northbound on I-25 just south of Pueblo when a pickup approached him in the right lane traveling at or near the speed limit of 75 miles per hour. The vehicle approached the trooper within three car lengths and then made a sudden lane change without using a turn signal.
Deciding to stop and warn the driver for failure to signal a lane change, Trooper Ortiz noticed the vehicle had Mexican license plates. Once pulled over, the driver produced his driver’s license and ownership documents for his vehicle. According to the documents given, the driver was from Juarez, Mexico, a known drug origination area. The driver then stepped out of his vehicle and began smoking a cigarette. Due to the driver’s nervous behavior, Trooper Ortiz asked the driver his destination and whether his vehicle had been searched at the border. The driver advised that he was on his way to Denver and that U.S. Customs had searched his vehicle for two hours at the border. Trooper Ortiz then asked the driver for permission to search the vehicle and was given authorization to do so. At 12:06 p.m., while searching the vehicle, Trooper Ortiz noticed that the fuel gauge was above the full mark and that the fuel filler pipe had fresh scratches, giving suspicion that the fuel tank possibly contained narcotics. A K-9 was requested,
and within 10 minutes of searching, alerted to the presence of drugs next to the fuel filler door. Detaining the vehicle at the troop office, an access compartment was found in the fuel tank. When opened, it exposed 39 metal canisters containing a total of 156 pounds of marijuana. The driver was placed under arrest and booked on felony drug charges. The value placed on the confiscation was $156,000.00.
Trooper Ortiz’s efforts to undermine the ‘ingenuity’ of drug smugglers should be applauded and recognized!