Howell K-9 Opus sniffs out narcotics in vehicle

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HOWELL – A convicted felon was charged with being in possession of a handgun as K-9 Opus made his first “indication” leading to an arrest in his short career with the Howell Police Department.

Patrolman Vincent Bonner was on patrol at midnight April 28 when he conducted a motor vehicle stop on a 2001 Audi A4 on Interstate 195 eastbound in Howell, according to police.

Bonner initiated the stop because the vehicle had an inoperable brake light and because the driver failed to maintain lane.

Police said the motor vehicle stop and a subsequent investigation with the assistance of K-9 Patrolman Jesse Moore and his partner Opus led to the arrest of a passenger, a 27-year-old man from Neptune City, and his acquaintance, the vehicle’s operator, a 26-year-old woman of Neptune City.

There were no other occupants in the vehicle, according to police. Patrolman Michael Silvani and Patrolman Travis Horton also responded to the scene.

While speaking to the driver,  Bonner noticed the vehicle had tinted front windows and did not have an inspection sticker, according to police.

The officer detected the odor of raw marijuana coming from the vehicle and was suspicious of the occupants’ alleged travel origin and destination as they did not confirm the route they were traveling, police said.

Officers, including Opus, who recently graduated from the K-9 academy, responded to the scene to assist Bonner.

Opus conducted a walk-around of the vehicle and “indicated” to the presence of narcotics in the vehicle. As a result, the officers searched the vehicle and located a marijuana cigarette, a grinder with marijuana remnants inside and a black 9mm FEG P9R semi-automatic handgun, according to police.

The handgun was stored directly behind the rear passenger seat and was accessible from the interior of the vehicle compartment by folding down one of the seats. The handgun was not loaded and no ammunition was found. Neither individual claimed ownership of the handgun. As of May 12, the gun had not been identified as stolen, according to police.

The passenger was charged with unlawful possession of a handgun and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. He was transported to the Monmouth County jail, Freehold Township. Police said his past convictions will not be released.

The driver was charged with unlawful possession of a handgun, possession of marijuana under 50 grams, possession of drug paraphernalia and several motor vehicle violations. She was processed and released.

The vehicle was seized pending forfeiture.