While conducting a traffic stop for illegal tint on Interstate 4 in Hillsborough County recently, Trooper Christian Pimentel smelled the odor of marijuana emitting from the vehicle. Trooper Pimentel immediately requested Trooper Ronald Drake to be enroute as a back up unit.
Trooper Pimentel then requested and received permission from the driver to search the vehicle. Trooper Pimentel then requested a K-9 unit. While conducting the search, Trooper Pimentel located a piece of luggage in the trunk and asked the driver if he could search the bag. The driver, Aaron Andre Cooper, stated he did not want the bag searched, at which time he fled the scene on foot, running into a wooded area along Interstate 4. A passenger in the vehicle, Christopher Salandy, was then handcuffed and secured.
Aerial assistance was then requested and provided by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in an attempt to locate the driver. Trooper Drake then conducted a search of the bag and discovered five bags of marijuana, weighing approximately 21 pounds, with an estimated street value of over $24,000.
After an extensive search, the driver was not located. The passenger was arrested and charged with trafficking in marijuana, possession with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana over 20 grams, and possession of paraphernalia. The driver remains at large.