The Intercept has uncovered a video that appears to show a New York Police Department officer planting marijuana inside someone's car as he conducted a search of the vehicle. It was the second time that he had allegedly done so in just a two-month span.
Officer Kyle Erickson conducted a routine traffic stop in March 2018, claiming that the car had a broken taillight. Erickson and his partner Elmer Pastran approached Jason Serrano, who was sitting in the passenger seat of his friend's car. Serrano argued that the officers couldn't have noticed an issue with the taillight since their car was further up the road, and made a U-turn to pull them over.
From the moment the driver's side window was rolled down, Erickson and Pastran said that the car smelled "like weed," and demanded Serrano and his friend get out of the vehicle. Serrano told the officers that he "can barely move," lifting his clothes to show the byproduct of an abdominal surgery he just got done due to a stab wound. When Serrano refused to allow them to search his jacket, they pushed him to the ground, and handcuffed him.
"We gotta find something," Erickson told Pastran as he checked Serrano's jacket. After Erickson found nothing in the front seat area, he can be heard on his body cam getting audibly frustrated. After a brief meeting with his colleague, Erickson appeared to place something in the car’s drink holder, and as he perused other areas, he says, "I smell a little weed" before picking up the small bud he just dropped in the drink holder.
Erickson returned to the front seat a third time, revisiting spots where he had previously looked, and dropping a larger bud in the drink holder. "Good?," Pastran asked. As Serrano was taken away on a stretcher, Erickson asked Pastran, "You good?" The two officers ended their search by fist-bumping each other. The declaration that they have to "find something" and the question "You good?" were also used in a February 2018 arrest involving Lasou Kuyateh.
Kuyateh spent two weeks in jail following his arrest when a marijuana cigarette was allegedly found in his car after the officer's body cam suspiciously cut off right before the discovery was made. In his testimony, Erickson claimed that the recording issue was due to a "technical difficulty," but after the body cam footage was presented as evidence, lawyers for each side and the judge spoke privately. After their discussion, prosecutors dropped the marijuana charge against Kuyateh, and advised the NYPD that Erickson was going to need a lawyer.
The department’s internal affairs division later determined that after reviewing accusations of misconduct against Erickson and Pastran were "unfounded." Late last year, Kuyateh filed a suit against the city for $1 million.