Officer Charged With Stealing Money During Traffic Stops

Officer Faces Charges Of Robbery, Official Misconduct

An Indianapolis police officer has been arrested, accused of stealing thousands of dollars from drivers during traffic stops, police said.

Officer David Butler, a 23-year veteran with the department, was charged Friday with two counts of robbery and two counts of official misconduct.

An internal investigation was launched three months ago after accusations that Butler, while in uniform and driving a police vehicle, made two traffic stops for minor violations on Indianapolis' northwest side, said department spokeswoman Sgt. Linda Jackson.

During the stops, Butler stole money and threatened to arrest the Hispanic male drivers for license violations, investigators said.

The first report was made in early January when a man said he was pulled over in the 5400 block of West 34th Street.

The driver said the officer did not tell him what he had done wrong, but ordered him to leave his wallet and cell phone on the driver's seat and stand by the back of the truck while he searched the vehicle.

The driver told police after the search, he noticed that $700 from a paycheck he had recently cashed was missing. He said he was going to send the money to his ill father in Mexico.

That incident prompted investigators to look into other cases in which drivers had claimed an officer stole money during a traffic stop.

Police said they determined Butler was also involved in a similar theft on Sept. 27, 2010, in the 3400 block of North High School Road.

The driver in that case said he was stopped by an officer who searched his vehicle and threatened to arrest him. After the stop, the man said he noticed $1,500 he was saving to send to Mexico was missing from his wallet.

"I commend the IMPD Professional Standards Unit for initiating and completing a thorough investigation into Officer Butler's actions," Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said in a news release. "Their investigation uncovered a repetitive pattern of behavior by Officer Butler, a pattern of behavior which plainly violated the trust the public placed in him."

Butler was suspended without pay and will be recommended for termination, police said.

One of the alleged victims, Emiliano Vasquez, said he had not heard the officer had been identified and arrested.

"He wanted my registration and my I.D. I give to him but he told me put my watch on the seat," Vasquez said.

Vasquez said police initially doubted one of their own was involved.

“The police told me, 'Maybe it's not police,'” Vasquez said. “I told the guys, 'Go into the gas station and watch the camera, it's in there.'"

Police later used the video to charge Butler with the robbery.

While Vasquez said he is not angry, Ildefonso Carbajal, publisher of bilingual "La Ola," said he is outraged.

“If it happened to somebody in the Hispanic community it can happen to anybody,” Vasquez said. “People tend to be afraid because most people come from other countries where the laws are not as good as they are supposed to be in this country.”

Anyone who may have been involved in a similar incident on the city's northwest side or has more information about the case is asked to contact Detective Shani Anderson with the department's Professional Standards Division at 317-327-2944.