Smell tipped trooper in pot stop

Strong odor of air freshener in suspect's car made officer suspicious

Ramiro Gutierrez



GUTIERREZ_Ramiro

Ramiro Gutierrez

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A Colorado State Patrol trooper said a “sweet smell” was evident as he walked up to the trunk of a car with 92 pounds of marijuana, growing sweeter yet when the trooper spoke to the car’s driver Saturday on the shoulder of Interstate 70, according to an arrest affidavit.

“I got to the right passenger window and driver rolled the window down ... I immediately was hit with the overwhelming odor of air freshener coming from the vehicle,” the affidavit said.

Ramiro Munoz-Gutierrez, 55, of Pixley, Calif., said he was driving to Chicago to see his daughter and apologized for allegedly earlier weaving out of a traffic lane around milepost 15, eastbound on I-70.

The trooper, who was parked in the median watching traffic at milepost 15, said he stopped Munoz-Gutierrez’s Mercury sedan around 10 a.m., for weaving out of a traffic lane one time. His hands were shaking when he retrieved his wallet, the affidavit said. Munoz-Gutierrez said he swerved because he was tired and wanted to get a hotel.

He allegedly consented to a search of his car by another trooper, who was working with a K-9 dog, Scooby.

The marijuana seized in the case, sealed in 88 packages weighing roughly one pound each, was found inside bags held in the trunk of the car, the affidavit said. Munoz-Gutierrez asked for a lawyer, declining to answer any questions.

Munoz-Gutierrez was ordered Monday held at the Mesa County Jail on $25,000 bond on charges including possession with intent to distribute more than five pounds of a controlled substance.

The arrest was among 15 reported — more than 300 drivers were contacted — this weekend in a coordinated focus on traffic enforcement involving the Colorado State Patrol, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, Grand Junction and Fruita police, authorities said.

State Patrol Sgt. Mike Baker said CSP brought in some 32 troopers from outside of Mesa County, all of them with the State Patrol’s criminal investigations branch, to supplement regular staffing levels at the Fruita 4A Troop for the weekend patrol saturation effort. Nineteen Fruita-based troopers also worked Friday morning through Saturday night, Baker said.

Baker said no overtime cost was incurred in the effort as the outside troopers “were told to adjust schedules.” The initiative wasn’t the result of any perceived rise in criminal activity on local roads, Baker said.

“(Fruita 4A) has a new captain who was interested in trying something different,” he said. “They (Mesa County, Grand Junction and Fruita) were game for it.”

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