Navarro: Drugs found at prominent city figure's house, no action taken

Dave Navarro
Dave Navarro
Verna York
Verna York
Merritt McHaffie
Merritt McHaffie
Pinehaven Court home
Pinehaven Court home

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A current Columbia Police Department employee is speaking out about what she said is atypical and unexplained activity in the department.

She was the assistant of former Columbia Police Captain David Navarro, who has accused the interim police chief of launching a plot to oust a top city official.

She's now giving details of another case involving a prominent city figure. It's a burglary case she said should have turned into a drug case but a CPD drug cop said his boss got in the way.

Verna York has worked for the Columbia Police Department for 10 years. She's seen nearly every drug case cross her desk. She was responsible for logging those reports.

But a case from last December caught her eye earlier this year. It started as a burglary at a house on Pinehaven Court. CPD showed up and the bad guys ran.

When asked what caught her eye about this case, York said, "The officer specifically saw something he wanted to make an arrest on and was told by command staff to overlook that.

The incident report shows the Pinehaven Court address belonged to Merritt McHaffie, who at the time was the Director of the Five Points Association--an association that works with the police department on a near-daily basis.

The report shows a second person at that address as well. What the report doesn't show, is officers say they found drugs inside.

Former Columbia Police Captain Dave Navarro described what officers found inside the house: "They were able to observed marijuana in plain view somewhere in that house," he said. "I believe it was in the living room area, coffee table area."

Navarro was the captain overseeing the drug team and, in May, opened an investigation into the case after an agent started asking for an update on the drug charges after the agent got a second tip.

"He asked whatever happened with--do you have a case number? I want to follow up on that," Navarro said. "Whatever happened to the drugs, the marijuana that was there?"

"I asked him. He says, 'Yes sir, there was marijuana on the table but there was not a large quantity, but it was enough to make a charge,'" Navarro said. "And I asked him, 'Whose residence?' and he said, 'Five Points Association President, Merritt McHaffie.'"
Navarro opened an investigation to find out why the drug angle was never pursued. He got a sworn statement from officer C.B. Williams, who was the officer who ran a K-9 through McHaffie's home.

In it, the agent wrote: "I thought they had charged someone in the case, but when I asked Officer Newman today, he stated that Captain Sharpe {sic} had told him not to worry about charging the homeowners."

WIS News 10's Jody Barr asked Navarro: "From your knowledge, the conversations you had with the officers who were there on scene that night, did they intend to prosecute the drug case?" Navarro replied,"Absolutely."

Navarro told Barr there are some things he wants to know from the investigation.

"This was not a case whereby maybe there was a little bit of marijuana by the door where a subject ran out and dropped it," he said. "This was drugs. According to Officer Newman, drugs that were laid out on the coffee table."

"The drugs are not even mentioned in the incident report, so what happened to the drugs?" Navarro asked. "Did we just leave them there? Did somebody bag them? What did they do with the drugs?"

WIS reached out to McHaffie.
She said Captain Sharp was the first officer to call her to tell her about the burglary. McHaffie told Barr, Sharp told her the drugs found at her house that night were on the men who broke into her home. McHaffie told Barr by phone Friday she wanted to make a statement and that she'd call him back when she consulted with some people. McHaffie never returned Barr's call.

In response to the WIS request for a statement, The police department spokesperson e-mailed us that "Internal Affairs reviewed the case and there was no wrongdoing noted."

Copyright 2013 WIS.  All rights reserved.