Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper is criticizing the Lake Orion Police Department’s use of a 14-year-old boy in a March drug bust, calling it “extremely dangerous.”
“It’s something that’s ill-advised, something we think is dangerous,” Cooper said this week, noting that she does not dictate how police departments conduct their investigations.
Cooper said most of the undercover cases involving confidential informants involve adults, and this would be the youngest person used in such a case that’s she’s aware of.
“This young man’s going to have a terrible time, because now he’s not confidential anymore,” Cooper said. “You don’t know who you’re going up against.”
The boy’s father has filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office about his son’s involvement. The boy’s mother, who has full custody of the boy, allowed her son to take part in the sting because it was the most effective way of getting the man eventually charged in the case out of the boy’s life, according Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh.
Narsh defended the decision to use the boy, noting that these were unique circumstances.
Edward Watkins, the man arrested in the case, is a 35-year-old parolee with a lengthy criminal history. Narsh said Watkins was a father figure to a friend of the 14-year-old boy — he was living with that boy and his mother — and had been pressuring the 14-year-old boy to buy marijuana for quite some time. Narsh said the 14-year-old boy’s mother is a loving and caring person.
“This is not a normal narcotics investigation. However, the pressure that was being put on this boy by a trusted adult gave us grave concern” that he would be in as much or more danger by not proceeding with the sting, Narsh said, referencing the access the man had to the boy. “This is a predator who would attempt to get drugs into the hands of … young teens.”
Narsh said the sting was the surest way of getting the man off the street.
Watkins, who was from Southfield but had been living in Lake Orion for about a year, was arrested March 15, Narsh said. Watkins, who was charged with one count of marijuana deliver to a minor, a potential eight-year felony, is scheduled for a preliminary examination Monday at 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills.
The boy arranged a buy at a parking lot near Children’s Park at Anderson and Front Streets, Narsh said. As the transaction played out, the boy’s mother watched from a nearby vehicle. The boy informed his mother of the pressure from Watkins the day of the sting, and she contacted police, Narsh said.
Narsh, who noted that children ages 12 and older are the fastest-growing segment of marijuana users, said he understands the concern of the prosecutor and the boy’s father but insisted that the use of the boy was the lesser of the dangers he faced.
“Drugs were dangerous, and this man’s influence in his life was dangerous … everything about adults trying to sell drugs to children was dangerous, and there was danger all around this boy,” Narsh said.
Watkins, who lists 10 aliases, has a criminal history dating at least to 1997 that includes charges of felonious assault, retail fraud and receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle, according to online state records.