An alert special operations team with a K9 officer on board was in the right place at the right time on Wednesday to seize 19 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop, according to Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell.
“We had a team in the area assigned a different task when one noticed a vehicle traveling erratically,” the sheriff said. “When that vehicle was stopped for investigation, it was discovered to be carrying a suitcase full of marijuana.”
Forest Bryan, 25, and McKinley Johnson, Jr., 29, both of Hilton Head, are charged with one count each of possession of a controlled substance, trafficking in marijuana, and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.
Deputies say a team of special operations deputies was returning from the western part of Orangeburg County on Wednesday, traveling in a convoy along Salley Road, just west of the Town of North, when one of the deputies noticed a white dodge weaving across the center line behind them.
Deputies say the last officer in the line pulled over while notifying the others, allowing the suspicious Dodge to pass him. The officer then stopped the Dodge while the other officers circled back, say deputies.
Deputies say they noticed a strong smell of marijuana as they approached the vehicle, but were told there was nothing illegal in the car when they asked. K9 officer "Boss," who happened to be with the team, was brought out and alerted on the Dodge, police say.
After finding a small amount of marijuana in the back seat, deputies found a suitcase in the trunk, according to investigators. The driver held his head down when he was asked if there was any marijuana inside the suitcase, according to police report.
When deputies opened the suitcase, they say they found 19 vacuum-packed bags of marijuana. Investigators say they learned Bryan and McKinley had paid $57,000 for the narcotic, which is estimated to have a street value of more than $75,000. They also found a .40 caliber handgun and pills in the car, according to arrest warrants.
During a hearing on Thursday, bond was set at $50,000 cash or surety for both Bryan and McKinley.