A Blountstown man accused of being a drug runner had a compaint of his own for law enforcement officials last month.
Daniel Lee Swearengin, 51, approached Calhoun County Sheriff’s Deputy John Scheetz during his dinner break at KFC Dec. 14 and told him he wanted to report an incident that occurred between himself and State Attorney’s Office Investigator Steve Mears.
Swearengin met Dep. Scheetz back at the Sheriff’s Office and provided a sworn statement that he was riding his bike when he was approached by Mears in an unmarked vehicle. He said Mears asked for consent to search his clothing, but never displayed a badge and did not identify himself as a law enforcement officer. Swearengin denied consent and continued on his way. He said Mears pursued him and ultimately struck his bicycle with his vehicle.
As per protocol, the Sheriff’s Office turned the report over to the State Attorney’s Office, directly to Mears’ supervisor, Assistant State Attorney Bob Pell.
“I checked into it,” Pell told The County Record, adding that it wasn’t an “official complaint”. Pell further stated he was preparing a report but hadn’t completed it.
“Steve caught [Swearengin] coming out of a drug house and Steve asked him to stop,” Pell stated, noting that Swearengin produced a cigarette can with a joint in it and Mears asked if he had anything else on him. “He cut and ran and Steve cut him off,” Pell continued, adding that Swearengin threw crack cocaine out when he fled on his bike.
In a report prepared by Mears on the incident, Mears said when he first encountered Swearengin, he rolled down the window in his state issued vehicle and motioned for Swearengin to come over. “He immediately told me without asking that he did not have any crack on him. He and I laughed and I asked him how did he know what I was going to ask him about.”
Mears said Swearengin told him he’d been doing yard work, but Mears noted it had been storming and Swearengin’s clothes were dry. When Mears pointed out inconsistencies in his story, Swearengin appeared nervous. Mears asked to check the cigarette pack in his pocket and a burnt marijuana cigarette was found inside. “I told him I was not going to charge him with the cannabis, but I would destroy it in his presence.”
Mears then told Swearengin he thought he had “more than that” on him. “I put the truck in park and started to get out.” That’s when he said Swearengin rode off on his bike and pulled out a small plastic container. “I decided at that time to cut him off to get him to stop,” Mears stated. “To his right was a ditch with water in it, so I pulled in front of him.” Mears said he yelled to Swearengin to keep him from hitting the truck, but said Swearengin was focused on getting the lid off the plastic container and trying to steer at the same time. “When he realized he was about to hit the truck, he snatched the handle bars and fell into the ditch,” Mears reported.
Mears said he made sure Swearengin was okay, then checked the ditch for crack cocaine, but never found any.
“Upon not finding any crack cocaine, I told Mr. Swearengin that even though he ran from me, that I would still honor my prior commitment to him when I told him that I would not charge him for having the cannabis in his possession,” Mears wrote in his report.
Mears told The County Record he has not spoken with Swearengin since the incident and was not aware of anyone else in his office speaking with Swearengin.
Pell said if Swearengin makes an “official complaint” it will be turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.