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Former Vero Beach police officer Christian Butterfield arrested, accused of dumping confiscated marijuana

Video showed officer placing marijuana in dumpster at police station, warrant says
Posted at 2:22 PM, Jun 19, 2024

VERO BEACH, Fla. — The Vero Beach Police Department announced Wednesday that one of their former officers was arrested after they said he confiscated marijuana and later dumped it following a traffic stop earlier this month.

According to an arrest warrant, the case surrounds Christian Butterfield, 31, and his conduct during a June 1 traffic stop on two teens — ages 19 and 17 — at about 1:18 a.m. in the 2200 block of 16th Avenue.

The warrant said that Butterfield's sergeant was "having issues" with him that concerned him failing to turn in written warnings regarding traffic violations at the end of his shift.

"His supervisor was noticing ... he was making traffic stops and wasn't necessarily doing the documentation that comes with that traffic stop," Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey said during a Thursday news conference. "Even if it's a warning, it would be a written warning, not just a verbal warning."

Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey speaks on June 20, 2024, following the arrest of former officer Christian Butterfield.
Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey speaks on June 20, 2024, following the arrest of former officer Christian Butterfield.

This prompted the sergeant to conduct body-warn camera (BWC) reviews of Butterfield's traffic stops to compare corresponding written warnings that were not accounted for.

When the June 1 traffic stop was being reviewed, the warrant said the video showed Butterfield spotted a "baggie" of marijuana while searching a vehicle. The video then showed him weighing the marijuana with another officer, determining that it weighed 27 grams.

Video showed an exchange between Butterfield and the driver where the officer informed the driver that possession over 20 grams is a felony.

The driver was on video saying, "Can we just really dump it?"

Butterfield replied, "I'm leaning towards that. I'm really leaning towards that. I think I'm gonna help you out with that alright. You seem like a good kid and maybe just are hanging out with some questionable people."

The driver and 17-year-old passenger were questioned, handcuffed, arrested but later released.

The warrant said video showed Butterfield placing the marijuana, a small black case and other paraphernalia in the trunk of his patrol vehicle. Both the passenger and driver were allowed to leave the scene.

Just after 2 a.m. that night, the warrant said Butterfield parked at the southwest corner of the Vero Beach Police Department parking lot where a large dumpster is located. While there, the report said he got out of his patrol vehicle, opened the trunk and removed the bag of marijuana, black case and a vape pen, placing them in the dumpster.

An internal investigation began on June 4, and Butterfield was placed on administrative leave.

Police said they later looked in the dumpster for the dumped items, but the trash had already been collected.

Butterfield later resigned from the department on June 12.

A criminal investigation continued and Butterfield was ultimately charged with one felony count of tampering with evidence.

"He committed a crime," Currey said. "He violated general order. He did the same thing that we arrest ... civilians for, tampering with evidence, destroying evidence."

Butterfield turned himself into the Indian River County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday and was released on a $10,000 bond.

Police said the internal investigation is still ongoing, and they plan to look into the former officer's prior police work and body camera videos to see if he did something something similar in the past. However, police said it is unlikely that additional charges will be filed.

Vero Beach police will also looking into the involvement of two other officers that Butterfield was with when the traffic stop was conducted.