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CHP officer is arrested in the theft of $1 million in cocaine

December 25, 2007|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

A California Highway Patrol officer has been arrested on suspicion of stealing several kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $1 million from the evidence room at the agency's station in Santa Ana, officials said Monday.

Joshua Blackburn, 32, of Murrieta, a six-year veteran, was being held at the Orange County Jail on $4-million bail.

"This is an extremely serious crime," said Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office. "This is somebody the public put their trust in, so it elevates the case."

Blackburn's attorney, John Barnett, declined to comment except to say that his client had never been in trouble. CHP officials also declined to comment, and a call to Blackburn's home was not answered.

Blackburn is expected to be charged with transportation of cocaine, possession for sale and burglary, Schroeder said. His arraignment was set for Wednesday.

The crime came to authorities' attention about 4 a.m. Friday when CHP officers noticed that someone had broken into the evidence room, Schroeder said. They contacted the Santa Ana Police Department and the district attorney's office, which conducted an investigation.

Blackburn was arrested later that day, Schroeder said.

"We have recovered all of the cocaine involved and feel confident that there are no more [stolen] drugs floating around," she said.

Authorities believe there was only one break-in, which occurred early Friday.

Schroeder would not specify what evidence led to the suspect, nor where the drugs were recovered because the investigation is continuing.

The stolen cocaine, part of a cache of evidence in a pending case in which Blackburn is not involved, was found "somewhere in Southern California" away from the CHP station, she said.

On Monday, a neighbor of Blackburn expressed surprise at his arrest.

"He's a great guy," Russel Hendricks said. "My kids and his kids play on the street together. He goes to church every Sunday."

Blackburn, who has a wife and four young children, could face several years in state prison if convicted, Schroeder said.

david.haldane@latimes.com

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