DEA: East St. Louis firefighter busted in Texas with pot, $50,000

News-DemocratApril 26, 2013 

An East St. Louis firefighter was busted in Texas with $50,000 in cash and marijuana, police said.

Now the fire chief wants the firefighter fired for refusing a drug test when he returned from Texas.

Lt. Khari Sharp, 39, who has been a firefighter for 10 years, was placed on unpaid leave March 14 and was the subject of a termination hearing Wednesday. The hearing was continued until May 14 to give his attorney time to prepare a defense.

Sharp ran out of gas at 1:19 p.m. March 10 in a rural stretch of Interstate 40 about 80 miles east of Amarillo, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. A trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety stopped to help Sharp and noticed a strong marijuana smell coming from Sharp's body and from inside the vehicle.

The smell gave the trooper probable cause, so he searched the vehicle and found the cash and pot, according to the DEA.

Sharp identified himself to the trooper as an East St. Louis firefighter. His firefighter turn out gear and helmet were in the red Chevrolet Blazer that was registered to him.

Sharp faces federal charges of possessing marijuana and money laundering. His passenger, Corey Williams, 40, was also arrested and charged with marijuana possession.

When Sharp returned to East St. Louis on March 14, Fire Chief Jason Blackmon requested that Sharp submit to a drug test. Sharp "was ordered to accompany East St. Louis Fire Chief Derrick Burns and Capt. Brandon Walls, president of union Local 23, to the designated place for the test," according to the chief's petition for termination.

"Sharp violated the order and refused to submit to the test," according to Blackmon.

Refusing to submit to the drug test violated fire department regulations, Blackmon wrote in the petition for Sharp's termination made to the East St. Louis Police and Fire Board.

Sharp on Wednesday appeared before the board wearing a dark blue firefighter's uniform. He sat attentive while he listened to the charges read aloud in the council chambers.

The hearing was continued at the request of Sharp's attorney so he and the City Attorney Phil Rice can exchange evidence, documents and statements before the hearing reconvenes at 6 p.m., May 14.

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.

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