Day 1 yields big bust for rookie Woodbury cop
It didn't take a seasoned cop to tell something wasn't right.
During a routine traffic stop on Feb. 8, rookie Woodbury police officer Caitlin Jaworski peered inside a car while her field training officer conducted the stop. What she spotted was a cache of electronics that, thanks to a little cooperative communication between departments, was revealed to be loot stolen earlier in the day from a Cottage Grove home.
Police ended up arresting the driver and two passengers. Felony charges followed.
Not a bad collar for Jaworski's first day on the job, said Jason Antrim, her field training officer.
"An experience like this is invaluable," he said. "It's a glaring example of how proactive policing can really make a difference."
It was also an example of how a routine stop - paired with a little intuition and police work - can yield big results.
Antrim and Jaworski had been parked at Colby Lake Park monitoring traffic when they saw a car drive by with three occupants not wearing seatbelts. Antrim, who was driving, lit up the car and pulled it over on Woodbury Drive just south of Valley Creek Road.
A license plate check revealed the driver had a suspended license. That was red flag No. 1. Another flag went up after Jaworski noticed the items next to the woman in the backseat.
"As a police officer, you get a hunch about these things," Antrim said.
He mapped out a plan to find out if the items were, in fact, stolen: He knew they could arrest the driver, later identified as Xue Her, for the suspended license, which he said was bolstered by the fact that the man allegedly had a history of not paying fines.
And since the passengers had admitted to not having driver's licenses, Antrim knew the car would have to be towed. Once it was towed, police would have to inventory the contents, which he suspected would identify the electronics as stolen.
That was the plan, anyway.
But when Jaworski went to slap her first pair of handcuffs on a suspect, she searched his pockets. That turned up a pill that Her admitted was Ecstacy - and it spared the cops from having to execute the rest of the plan. Her's pockets also included a television remote and a $300 wad of cash.
The narcotics discovery provided the probable cause the officers needed to search the vehicle.
Soon after, officers began airing the serial numbers of the electronics over a radio channel that Cottage Grove cops happened to be listening to - while they were processing a crime scene.
That crime scene was a forced-entry burglary where a flat-screen TV and other electronics were taken.
The Cottage Grove officers realized they were hearing Woodbury police describe items stolen from the house they were at. Once officers from the two departments linked up, they discovered other evidence connecting Her - and his passengers - to the burglary, including a pry bar allegedly used to enter the house.
Her and his passengers, Cathy Moua, 27, and Chou Yang, 22, were all charged with second-degree burglary. Antrim said Her had been on federal probation and was on the radar of local FBI agents, along with St. Paul police and the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office.
The incident made for a memorable first day for Jaworski, who said she phoned her husband - currently serving in Afghanistan - with the news.
"What a great way to start a career," she remembered telling him after the 15-hour day. "It was just an excellent one to start on."