A Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy is accused of stealing prescription medicine from the empty house of a dying man who authorities found passed out during a welfare check shortly after Hurricane Irma.
According to our affiliate WPEC, surveillance video released by the now deceased man’s family is what ultimately led to Deputy Jason Cooke’s arrest.
According to an arrest report on September 12th deputies responded to a call from a man concerned about his 85-year-old father who he said had been alone in his house when Hurricane Irma hit.
Deputies found the man on the floor of his master bedroom. The elderly man was taken to a local hospital and later died, according to the family.
Investigators say shortly after the scene cleared, Cooke, who was not on the original call, showed up to the home and went inside. The home’s internal surveillance cameras activated and sent an alert to the homeowner’s sons.
Cooke is seen on camera, walking around the house, rummaging through cabinets and picking up several items and putting them in his pocket, according to the report.
The family of the alleged victim released a statement Tuesday, expressing outrage that the deputy who violated the public’s trust is still on the counties payroll:
“Our family wanted to share this video with the public. We were outraged and disgusted when we viewed this. Via our IP camera, this is what we witnessed the morning our father passed away on 9/12. Officer, Jason Cooke, used official police department information to commit Burglary while armed during a State of Emergency and to commit Grand Theft of Controlled Substances after he received the garage door entry code over his police radio/log and broke into and burglarized our 85-year-old dying father’s Boynton Beach residence. He did so an hour and a half after our father was taken to the hospital because he had fallen and hit his head during a power outage in Hurricane Irma.
This video shows Officer Cooke entering our father’s house, in a gated retirement community, through the garage door and going directly to the Master Bedroom, where we believe he stole money and jewelry. He then goes to the kitchen where he steals several medications. He then proceeds to the second bedroom and then as he leaves the house, he pops something into his mouth. The video was reported to PBPD on 9/20/17, eight days after the incident occurred. PBPD, however, did not make an arrest until 10/19/17, almost five weeks after the crime. They made an exception to allow his arrest to be held in abeyance so that he could enter a 30 day drug rehabilitant program. We were told that Officer Cooke denied the crime at first, but after he was shown the video he admitted the crimes. Found in Mr. Cooke’s patrol car was a 2016 prescription bottle containing Vyvanse, a central nervous system stimulant, 47 pills of Tramadol Hydrochloride, a strong pain killer (with 3 different markings), Proclorperazine Maleate an anti psychotic drug and Carisoprodol (Soma) a muscle relaxant. Not all of these medications we think were taken from our father, leading us to believe that this was not Officer Cooke’s first crime. The police report was prepared by one of Cooke’s fellow officers on 10/3 but “blocked” from us until 10/20 and leaves out what we think is material and pertinent information, including but not limited to whose name was on the prescription bottle found in Cooke’s patrol car and that money and jewelry were reported stolen on 10/16.
If Officer Cooke was operating in his official capacity under these medications, it is our belief that he may have posed a significant threat to the public’s safety since just a few of the noted side effects of these medications include confusion, impaired thinking, impaired reactions, abnormal behavior, tremors, drowsiness, altered state of consciousness and anger. In our opinion, had we not had this video, this cop would still be out there posing a threat of danger to the community he swore to protect and committing more crimes. It is our hope that the justice system treats this cop like any other criminal out there and that he doesn’t receive further preferential treatment because he is a police officer. Officer Cook is out on bond and reported to be on PAID Administrative leave.”
Cooke was placed on paid administration leave after being released on $28,000 bound on October 20th.
The conditions of his release include receiving substance abuse treatment, random drug tests at least once a week, and the surrender of his firearms to the sheriff’s office.
Cooke is due back in court on November 20.
The public information officer for Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office told CNN, “Unfortunately, sometimes an employee makes a bad decision, which leads to misconduct. We investigated and determined his actions were criminal in nature, resulting in the charges.”