It was about 3:35 p.m. on Friday when a Volusia County Sheriff's Office deputy positioned along State Road 415, in Osteen, spotted a car go by and noticed the passenger — a rather large man — wasn't wearing his seat belt.
When he stopped the vehicle, the deputy immediately noticed that both the driver and passenger were nervous. And he also noticed that the passenger still wasn't wearing his seat belt. At about 450 pounds, the passenger — Christopher Mitchell, 42 — said he was simply too large to wear the belt.
Due to growing suspicions, a Sheriff's Office drug-detecting K-9 was brought to the scene. The dog quickly alerted deputies to the presence of drugs. The resulting investigation turned up cocaine, 23 grams of marijuana hidden under Mitchell's stomach fat, a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun and more than $7,000 in cash stuffed into a tube sock. The deputies also noticed something else: The vehicle's trunk and interior were sprinkled with carper freshener and scented dryer sheets, a common tactic used to conceal the odor of drugs when they're being transported.
The driver, Keithian Roberts, 38, of Sanford, and Mitchell, of Deltona, were both arrested.
Roberts was charged with possession of cocaine, and Mitchell was charged with possession of marijuana and also was cited for not wearing his seat belt, according to a Volusia County Sheriff's Office release.
The arrests were part of a crime-suppression operation conducted by the Sheriff's Office targeting crime and traffic enforcement in the Deltona area.
The operation began around 10 a.m. Friday, June 13, and lasted for about 10 hours, with deputies in both marked and unmarked vehicles.
Dubbed Operation Summer Shield, the operation was designed to combat property crimes, illegal drugs and dangerous driving offenses, such as speeding, DUI, running traffic lights and stop signs and reckless driving. The prime objective of the operations is to abate, discourage and displace crime through aggressive enforcement.
Friday's operation led to 23 arrests and the issuance of 83 traffic citations and 14 criminal citations. Deputies also conducted 148 traffic stops.
Of the 23 arrests, five were for felony offenses, 16 were for misdemeanor charges and two were the result of open warrants. The charges against Mitchell and Roberts were among the most serious. Some of the other charges included illegal possession of prescription drugs, driving with a suspended license, possession of drug paraphernalia and interference with child custody.
Deputies said similar operations will take place throughout the summer.