ST. GEORGE – If you’ve ever wondered exactly what it is bicycle police do while riding up and down the city streets, you’re probably not alone.
The arrest of four individuals on drug-related charges in St. George Monday is a standard example of what bicycle patrol officers do during their shifts and offers insight into how the officers actively work to keep the community safe.
“They’re not tied to the radio, so they don’t respond to calls from their bike,” St. George Police Sgt. Spencer Holmes said of the bicycle patrol unit. “They go out and address things on their own and, I mean, not a day goes by that they don’t find something.”
Such was the case Monday when officers Travis Willinger and Seth LeFevre were patrolling St. George Boulevard on mountain bikes around 1 p.m.
The two officers stopped at the Coronada Inn and Suites, located at 559 E. St. George Blvd., when they noticed “suspicious activity out of a motel room,” Holmes said, and they began watching multiple people coming and going from the small room.
“They saw some suspicious behavior and suspected there might be possible drug use or drug distribution going on inside the room,” Holmes said. “These are two very experienced, very dialed-in officers and they’re sharp as they come, so if they’re watching that room and suspecting drug use, these guys are. I mean, they’re not rookie police officers; they’re some of the best that we have.”
When the officers inquired of the motel manager about the occupants of the room, the manager told them the room had been rented for a single occupant only. The manager then proceeded to ask the nonpaying occupants to leave the motel.
As the occupants were leaving the room, Holmes said, the officers spotted drug paraphernalia in plain sight, including syringes sticking out of the boot of a woman identified as 19-year-old Courtney Timara Lerat, of St. George.
“While talking with her, she admitted that everyone in the room had been using methamphetamine,” LeFevre wrote in the probable cause statement supporting the arrests.
Lerat was placed under arrest and booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility on two class A misdemeanor drug possession charges, as well as a class B misdemeanor charge of drug paraphernalia possession.
The officers then detained everyone that came out of the room, including 27-year-old Orlando Simpson, of St. George. As Simpson sat handcuffed on the walkway a few feet from the motel room, he quickly jumped up and ran back into the room.
“He slammed the door and got to the bathroom to the toilet and, just as officers were able to chase and kick the door in and apprehend him on the toilet,” Holmes said. “He was flushing what’s presumed to be drug items down the toilet.”
Officers pulled Simpson off the toilet and secured him.
While officers were unable to recover any of the evidence Simpson flushed down the toilet in order to charge him with drug possession, Simpson was arrested on other charges. He was booked into the correctional facility on a class A misdemeanor charge of failure to stop at the command of an officer along with a class B misdemeanor charge of interfering with arrest.
A third occupant of the room, identified as 22-year-old David Eugene Udink, of St. George, was discovered to have a $10,000 warrant issued for his arrest for previous drug-related crimes. He was also found to be in possession of meth, pills and drug paraphernalia, Holmes said. He was subsequently arrested and charged with a class A misdemeanor for drug possession as well as two class B misdemeanors for drug and drug paraphernalia possession.
Karli Shaunae Chambers, 34, of St. George, also on probation for previous drug-related offenses, was also present in the motel room. When her probation officer learned she was present during the incident, Holmes said, Chambers was arrested and booked into the correctional facility on a 72-hour hold for violating terms of her probation.
A fifth person in the room was not found to be in possession of any narcotics nor did he have any warrants, Holmes said. He complied and was released at the scene.
Monday’s incident is a standard example of why the bicycle patrol unit was formed, said Holmes, who spent three years himself serving on the bike patrol. He added:
They were on their bikes being proactive, riding around talking to business owners, doing their thing. That’s the design of our bike patrol is to have officers in the position where they can investigate drug activity, quality of life issues, stuff that an officer driving by in a car might not be able to see but an officer slowly riding on a bike or riding through a parking lot would be able to see or hear or smell.
“They took four drug users off the street and cleaned up a hotel that, you know, families can now use,” Holmes said, “without having drug activity going on in one of the rooms.”
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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