FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Sgt. Robert Halmi and Spc. Quinlan Ogdon’s, 1 a.m. traffic stop of a blue SUV on Plank Road just outside the Fort Bragg gated cantonment area, proved to be much more than a minor traffic violation stop when they discovered a large amount of narcotics inside the vehicle, March 11.
The two were awarded the Army Achievement Medal for their quick response and skill in recognizing the telltale signs of suspicious behavior. Halmi and Ogdon are military police officers from the 42nd Military Police Detachment.
The pair were humble in speaking about the recognition their unit, Fort Bragg, and the Army placed upon them.
“You know, it’s nice to get the recognition, but this is what we do,” said Halmi, who followed his father’s footsteps into law enforcement. “[We] don’t come to work to get recognition. Just knowing that we possibly stopped those three individuals from overdosing on something they didn’t know was pure fentanyl, is enough.”
The pair discovered 25 ecstasy pills, 0.73 grams of cocaine, 4.34 grams of methamphetamine, 1.45 grams of pure fentanyl, 1 gram of marijuana, and other drug paraphernalia.
“We come to work, try to do the best we can, and get home safely,” Ogdon said, nodding.
Traffic accident investigators by title, Halmi and Ogdon had the opportunity to attend a Basic Narcotics Investigators Course hosted by the North Carolina Justice Academy just a week before their eventful traffic stop. Due to the cross-training, they could pick up on small clues that alerted them something else was going on.
“Odor of marijuana was one of the first clues,” said Ogdon. “The demeanor of the driver was off, and the two passengers in the rear wouldn’t look or talk to us. There wasn’t anyone in the front passenger seat – which was also unusual.”
“When Specialist Ogdon was conversing with the driver, I tried to make conversation with the passengers in the back but they were glued with their heads straight forward with minimal responses out of them,” explained Halmi, who also saw balled up steel wool scouring pad residue in the center counsel, a sign of narcotic usage.
Both Halmi and Ogdon agreed that the cross-training was essential in the success of their find during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop. The course allowed them to get a hands-on-experience in identifying different types of narcotics and the red flags that possible suspects may be portraying during a traffic stop. They both agreed that this skill is imperative because traffic enforcers are the first contact with drivers who are under the influence or portraying other suspicious behaviors.
“Actually seeing the different types of drugs in person was most beneficial because you need to have that basic knowledge to know what to look for,” said Ogdon. “If you haven’t seen it before, you might miss it.”
It isn’t a secret that due to Fort Bragg’s proximity to the heavy drug-trafficking corridor, I-95, military and surrounding community leaders face a significant challenge to keeping the local populace safe from drugs.
Narcotic usage and trafficking isn’t just a Fort Bragg issue. It is a worldwide epidemic, and Fort Bragg has been taking proactive measures while working closely with community law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and security of the people who live and work on the installation.
The actions of Halmi and Ogden are just one example of how having the presence of law enforcement can deter and stop narcotic trafficking around Fort Bragg. With the land surrounding Plank Road considered federal property, local law enforcement cannot patrol – the responsibility rests on Fort Bragg’s military police.
“In the past that area [Plank Road] has gone days and days without seeing a police presence, but now we are out there multiple times throughout the week and have noticed a significant decrease in not only traffic violations but findings (of illegal substances) out there,” explained Halmi. “Even if we are just pulling normal traffic enforcement, our presence out there – seeing the lights, seeing our vehicles – it deters (illegal activities) from happening on Plank Road or any other roads on the outskirts of Fort Bragg. We are making every attempt to prevent drug trafficking to ensure the safety and readiness of Fort Bragg and its personnel.”