Licking County Sheriff’s Deputy Resigns After Internal Investigation
The Licking County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday that Sgt. Jason Wortkoetter resigned from the department last Tuesday, following an internal investigation involving the seizure of a set of deer antlers.
Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp says those deer antlers were taken by the sheriff's sergeant out of a person's pick-up truck last July during a traffic stop.
"As soon as he saw me, I knew he was going to pull me over," said Roger Flanagan, who was driving the truck in a Newark-area neighborhood that night.
“The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Where'd you get that junk?’ I said, ‘Out of trash cans,’” Flanagan said.
A passenger was arrested on an outstanding warrant during the stop.
But Flanagan also says Wortkoetter was interested in a deer skull with antlers that he said he had just picked out of someone's trash.
He grabbed them out of the back of the truck and said, ‘I'll be taking these,’" said Flanagan. "I was really upset and wanted to tell him something, but I didn't, because I didn't want to get arrested or nothing.”
The sheriff said that he found the deer antlers in Wortkoetter’s garage after an internal investigation into the matter began last month.
Thorp says Wortkoetter did not follow the proper rules by not mentioning the antlers in the report -- and then not signing them into the property room.
County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt said Wortkoetter told the person he had to take them into evidence because they were not tagged, as is required by state law.
"This is something that is completely out of left field,” said Thorp. “There's not a single individual who works here who doesn't understand procedure. They clearly understand you cannot seize property and take it home."
The internal investigation states that Wortkoetter “…admitted his actions were immoral, unethical and unlawful.”
The sheriff says Wortkoetter also seized digital drug weighing equipment in another incident and did not follow proper procedure by signing it into the property room.
The prosecutor says to avoid criminal charges, Wortkoetter resigned last Tuesday, the same day as his scheduled disciplinary hearing.
Thorp says if Wortkoetter had not resigned, he was facing termination.
"If you do something wrong, you’ve got to pay,” said Flanagan. “He lost his job. That's his fault."
Thorp says internal investigators also looked into other cases Wortkoetter had handled in recent years, but the sheriff said he found no wrongdoing.
Sgt. Wortkoetter had served on the sheriff’s department for 15 years.
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