PBSO deputy accused of breaking into dead man's home, stealing pain pills after Hurricane Irma

Bond set at $28,000 during Friday hearing

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputy is accused of going into a deceased man’s home and stealing the man’s prescription medication in the days following Hurricane Irma.

Deputy Sheriff Jason Cooke is charged with burglary and grand theft during a state of emergency.

PBSO arrested Cooke Thursday afternoon and Cooke was in court Friday morning to face the charges. A judge set bond at $28,000. 

Three PBSO deputies responded on Sept. 12 to check on an elderly man in suburban Boynton Beach after the man’s son said an inside surveillance system hadn't detected motion on it, according to an arrest report. The elderly man weathered Hurricane Irma home alone. 

Records show Cooke was never assigned to that call. 

Deputies tried entering the home around 9:22 a.m. using a garage code listed from the dispatch log. The garage initially did not work but deputies say they reconnected the garage door to the motor. 

The elderly man was found in his bathroom on the floor and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue took him to Delray Medical Center, the report states. They cleared the call around 9:38 a.m.

Around 11 a.m., deputies say the motion detection system captured Cooke entering the man's home through the garage. 

The deputy went into the master bedroom, where there are no cameras, and “it is unknown what he did there,” the report states. 

Then, investigators say the deputy is seen on video going into the kitchen, picking up a container and emptying it into his hand. He does this again with another container. 

The deputy is next seen going through cabinets and drawers. He raises his “right hand towards his mouth as if he was ingesting something," a detective wrote in the report.

He leaves the house about five minutes after he entered it.

A sergeant reviewing the video identified Cooke.

Investigators interviewed Cooke on Sept. 20 when they say he admitted he was not assigned to the call. Then, detectives showed Cooke the surveillance video of himself from the incident and he told him he used the garage code from the dispatch log to go inside the home, according to a report.

Cooke did not know the homeowner and did not have permission to be inside, PBSO records show. 

Investigators say Cooke admitted while inside the home, he took Tramadol, a prescription pain reliever.

Cooke told a detective he was at the death investigation when he took the medication, telling investigators the pills were in the trunk of his patrol car because hadn't submitted them into evidence, the report states. 

Deputies who responded to the initial call said they hadn't talked to Cooke about it and did not make a request for him to return to the home.

Records show detectives found 60 pills including narcotics, anti-psychotic medicine and muscle relaxers inside Cooke’s PBSO road patrol vehicle.

Attorney Stuart Kaplan, representing Cooke, said in court Friday that Cooke has been in drug treatment for three weeks. He was scheduled to be released from treatment tomorrow. 

A Palm Beach County judge said Cooke has to complete his treatment to go on house arrest.

PBSO Statement: “The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office holds its employees to the highest standards and never forgets about its duty to preserve the public’s trust.  Unfortunately sometimes an employee makes a bad decision which leads to misconduct.  This misconduct was reported, investigated and subsequently determined to be criminal in nature, resulting in the charges.  
 
The Sheriff’s Office will remain vigilant to ensure that our efforts are professional and meet the high standards that the public has come to expect.”

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