A former narcotics detective and current reserve officer for the Malin Police Department was arrested Tuesday after a drug task force found roughly 1,200 illegal marijuana plants growing on his property outside Dairy.
Peter Michael Shepherd, 63, who goes by the name Mike Shepherd, faces felony charges of unlawful manufacture of marijuana and "engaging in a financial transaction in property derived from unlawful activity," according to Klamath County District Attorney Eve Costello.
Eric Smith, 41, who allegedly leased Shepherd's property to grow the drug without permits, was also arrested Tuesday afternoon at the Malin City Hall by the Klamath County Sheriff's Office. Smith faces the same charges as Shepherd.
Shepherd has a long career in local law enforcement. He ran for Klamath County Sheriff in 2012 and worked as a civilian at Kingsley Field until 2016 in the information protection and human resource divisions. He also worked for the Klamath County Sheriff's Office from 1990 to 2004 as a marine deputy, patrol officer, civil deputy and narcotics detective, among other positions. Since 2007, he has worked part-time for the Malin Police Department.
That career, however, may be in jeopardy.
After posting bail on Tuesday, Shepherd visited with Ron Broussard, chief of police at the Malin Police Department. Broussard said he put Shepherd on an immediate leave of absence.
The charges stem from a Sept. 16 visit to Shepherd's rural property outside of Dairy.
While local law enforcement was struggling to get a handle on illegal marijuana operations in the area, the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office and Basin Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (BINET), conducted a visit to 10150 Bliss Road. That property, county records showed, is owned by Shepherd and is home to Rockin S Ranch, a business registered under his name with the Oregon Secretary of State. Shepherd claimed plants growing at the location were part of a licensed hemp operation managed by Smith.
However, an investigation uncovered that there was no permit and the plants were not hemp.
County deputies visited the property after receiving a tip that there was illegal activity at the location. Because the situation involved an active-duty law enforcement officer, the Sheriff's Office requested the assistance of Oregon State Police Sergeant Cliff Barden, who is also the BINET supervisor. Barden said the Bliss Road property was leased to Smith, who was not licensed to grow either hemp or marijuana at the location.
Barden said the grower, Eric Smith, had a legal permit to grow hemp elsewhere in 2020 and also had a legal permit for 2021, but neither covered Shepherd's property.
That detail alone gave Barden and the Sheriff's Office reason to investigate. BINET asked Shepherd and Smith for permission to seize some plants for testing. Barden said both men agreed and provided written consent.
According to police, Shepherd maintained that Smith was growing legal hemp on the property while fully licensed and in legal compliance.
That, however, wasn't true, and Shepherd did not check for documentation.
"He didn't follow up on it," Barden said. "(Shepherd) didn't physically look at any permits or anything like that."
Barden said that people who grow illicit marijuana often don't bother to secure permits to grow hemp, because that would invite an inspection from the state. Barden said many apply for a permit but do not complete the process, so the grow site is never inspected. It can appear then that the application is pending, Barden said.
In Shepherd's case, no permit was ever secured for the property.
Months after the visit to Shepherd's property by local authorities, test results conducted by the Oregon State Police showed the plants were marijuana, according to Costello. Shepherd and Smith were indicted by a grand jury a week later.
A conviction on both of the Class C felonies could result in a total of ten years in prison, a fine up to $250,000, or both.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Smith had posted a $10,000 bond. His next court date is set for Tuesday, Jan. 18.
Herald, Joe S. “Former Narcotics Detective Faces Felonies after 1,200 Marijuana Plants Found on Property.” Herald and News, 23 Dec. 2021, www.heraldandnews.com/news/local_news/former-narcotics-detective-faces-felonies-after-1-200-marijuana-plants-found-on-property/article_ced523a2-86ef-5bdc-9117-753d128bb885.html.
Photo credit Klamath County Jail
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