Scott City police officers praised for role in record meth bust

Friday, July 11, 2003

On June 19, Scott City patrolman Richard Copeland made a traffic stop that led to the largest methamphetamine bust in Scott County history and two arrests. But during an award ceremony Thursday, he credited his backup, Cpl. Joseph Hann, with saving his life.

Because his patrol car had broken down when the call for help arrived, Hann ran more than a mile to the scene. He arrived just in time to restrain one of the suspects, who was easing down the side of the vehicle in an attempt to get back in. Later police found a loaded .9-mm handgun and several knives in the truck.

"He saved me that night," Copeland said.

For their work, Hann received the Law Enforcement Officers Medal of Merit, one of the highest awards given to police officers, and Copeland was given the department's Certificate of Outstanding Performance.

The events began just before midnight when Copeland stopped a westbound Ford Ranger truck for crossing into the opposite lane of traffic on Main Street. He thought the driver might be driving while intoxicated. Both the driver and passenger were very jumpy, Copeland said, a symptom of methamphetamine use. He also noticed the driver trying to hide something in the truck.

A check showed that the passenger, Kenneth Reeves of Scott City, was wanted on two felony warrants.

After Hann subdued the suspect, he opened one of two tanks in the truck after the suspects assured him it did not contain anhydrous ammonia. Hann collapsed when the fumes overwhelmed him. He was resuscitated by medics in the ambulance Copeland summoned.

The truck contained many of the tools used to manufacture methamphetamine in addition to the handgun, two switchblades and four lock blade knives.

Officers also found methamphetamine in the truck. Both suspects tested positive for methamphetamine use. Later, accompanied by Scott County Sheriff deputies, Reeve's house was searched and officers seized more than 100 grams of methamphetamine.

The driver, Charles Fry, 38, of Dewitt, Ark., was charged with possession of ephedrine, armed criminal action, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of anhydrous ammonia, possession of a concealed firearm and possession of a controlled substance.

Copeland, 32, has been on the force since 1997, Hann, 27, since 1998. The awards were made by Lt. Roy Butler, who is heading the department in the absence of police chief Don Cobb. Cobb is stationed with the military in the Mideast.

Scott City officials praised the work of both policemen. "A lot of times incidents like that turn out really bad," said city administrator Ron Eskew.

Mayor Tim Porch said the good police work should put drug users and dealers on notice.

"I hope it sends out a message they're not welcome in Scott City," he said. "... The ones that are left here need to be moving on."

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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