TENINO - For the second time this year, a police officer patrolling state Route 507 has seized a large quantity of marijuana during a traffic stop.
In both cases, the vehicles had ties to Palo Alto, Calif., according to Tenino police.
And both times, Tenino police officer Adam Haggerty made the traffic stop leading to the marijuana seizures. The first stop, Jan. 26, was of a white GMC Envoy carrying 15 pounds of marijuana.
The most recent stop, on Sunday, was of a white minivan carrying 7 pounds of marijuana, vacuum-sealed in a cooler, court papers state.
Haggerty arrested two Mexican nationals during Sunday’s traffic stop. Rigoberto Aguilar-Medriz and Juventino Madriz-Ruelas were both arrested on suspicion of unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.
Law enforcement officials were trying to verify their identities and ages Monday, and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold had been placed on both men.
During the Jan. 26 traffic stop on state Route 507, Haggerty arrested the driver of the GMC Envoy, Fernando Chavez-Cisneros, 21. A second occupant of the vehicle, identified in court records as Juan Christina Chavez Silva, ran off and was not apprehended, court papers state.
On March 22, a Thurston County Superior Court judge sentenced Chavez-Cisneros to six months in jail after he pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Chavez-Cisneros also had an immigration hold placed on him at the time of his arrest.
Tenino Police Chief Sean Gallagher said police have not been able to establish a relationship between the men arrested in the two cases.
Still, Gallagher said police are investigating whether there is a connection. Gallagher said the similarities between the two cases – both involving Mexican nationals with ties to Palo Alto, carrying large quantities of marijuana – suggest there could be a pattern. However, the two men arrested Sunday were not cooperating with law enforcement Monday, Gallagher said.
According to court papers, the two men arrested Sunday said “they left East Palo Alto … on April 4 and had driven straight through. Their intended destination was somewhere in the Roy/Yelm area.” They gave conflicting statements about why they were in the area, court papers state.
Haggerty said Monday that federal law enforcement agencies have been notified about the cases.
Haggerty said that state Route 507 is a road sometimes frequented by narcotics traffickers in order to avoid Interstate 5. Haggerty added that the traffickers may believe that there is less of a law enforcement presence on Washington’s back roads.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465