The six officers of the Tonto Apache Tribal Police Department have a variety of duties. One of those is patrolling the large parking area used by guests of the tribe's Mazatzal Casino.
TATPD Officer Carlos Garcia, the department's K-9 officer, drew the patrol duty Wednesday night. He stopped a vehicle for an equipment violation and ended up arresting two people on drug charges.
"The driver was very nervous," Garcia said, "So I ran my dog on the vehicle and he alerted for drugs."
Garcia, assisted by fellow officer Roscoe Dabney, found a large quantity of marijuana, a small amount of heroin, syringes and other drug paraphernalia.
"We arrested both the driver and passenger," Garcia said.
The driver is John Plott, the passenger is his wife, Melissa Plott, the officer said.
"They are from Indiana, but are now living in Payson," Garcia said.
He said in addition to the possession charges the two face, the driver is also being charged with DUI drugs.
"Without the dog alerting, they would have just driven off," Garcia said.
The suspects were turned over to the Payson Police Department for processing. They were booked into the Gila County Jail in Payson, Garcia said. According to information from the jail, Melissa Plott had been released, but John Plott remained in custody, as of press time.
The officer has worked with canines since 1997, but has only been with 3-year-old Eko since February, when the TATPD started its K-9 unit. The 12-year law enforcement veteran has been with the tribal police for about a year, he said.