Alva police officer taken to ER from traffic stop
May 15, 2022
An Alva police officer had to be taken to the hospital after he was exposed to items in a vehicle stopped for speeding.
Court papers show the incident occurred on Tuesday, May 10, at 9:03 p.m. Alva Police Officer Kaleb Keplinger was heading south on US-281 toward Hopeton when he observed a silver Ford Escape traveling northbound on US-281 at 91 mph. Keplinger met the vehicle at approximately Greer Road and US-281 and locked the speed in his radar at 87 mph. As the vehicle passed, he activated his emergency lights and siren and turned to initiate a traffic stop.
Keplinger radioed Woods County E-911 Dispatch telling them the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed north into the City of Alva. The vehicle came to rest in the west parking lot of the College Hill Church of Christ, 1102 College Boulevard. Keplinger observed the vehicle had an Arizona license plate and the tag had no registration sticker. Alva Police Officers Ron Vasquez and JT Jones arrived to assist.
As Keplinger approached the vehicle on the passenger side, he observed the vehicle occupants were moving around and reaching down onto the floorboards of the vehicle. He asked the driver, later identified as Luis Angel Rivera for his license, insurance and registration and also asked the reason for his speed. Rivera said he knew he was speeding, and he just wasn’t thinking about it.
Officer Keplinger asked if there was anything illegal in the vehicle, and Rivera replied “receipts.” Rivera then grabbed a backpack from the backseat and placed it onto his lap. Keplinger told him to stop reaching for things and asked him to step out of the car. Keplinger detained Rivera, placing him into handcuffs and sat him on the curb in front of the vehicle.
Keplinger then asked the passenger, later identified as Lisa Marie Ruiz, to step out of the vehicle. She said she needed to get her phone and stuff from the vehicle. Keplinger observed Ruiz kept reaching into a popcorn bag near her feet, and he told Officer Jones to have Ruiz exit the vehicle and have her sit on the curb.
Speaking with Rivera, Keplinger asked for consent to search the vehicle, and he said, “Yes, you can.” Keplinger asked Rivera how he knew Ruiz, and he said they were cousins. He asked Rivera where he was coming from and where he was headed. Rivera said they were headed from Arizona to Nebraska. He asked Rivera why he did not take the shorter route to Nebraska, and he replied that he was sightseeing.
Keplinger asked Ruiz if she had any property in the vehicle, and she said her phone. He asked Ruiz for consent to search her belongings, and she said “yes.” Keplinger asked Ruiz where they were headed, and she said Nebraska. He asked why they were coming through Oklahoma, and she said they were going to all the Guy Fieri chicken restaurants. Ruiz said her daughter in Arizona was going to give birth any day, and she had to be back (although she was traveling in the opposite direction).
Keplinger read Ruiz and Rivera the Miranda warning and asked if they would speak with him. Ruiz stayed silent, but Rivera said he would. Keplinger asked Rivera who owned the vehicle, and he said it was a friend’s and he was just driving. Keplinger asked if there was a vehicle trap or a load in the vehicle, and he said there was not. Rivera told Keplinger he has heard of people hiding drugs in traps and using electronic means to open up the trap.
Officers Vasquez and Keplinger began to search the Ford Escape. Opening the driver door of the vehicle, Keplinger observed the odor commonly associated with marijuana emitting from the vehicle. He observed trash, receipts and food wrappers all over the vehicle that gave it a lived in look. He observed marijuana “shake” on the floorboard of the vehicle.
Keplinger located Rivera’s wallet in the driver side door pocket with an Arizona driver’s license. He located a dollar bill that appeared to be “canoed” in half sitting under the wallet. He removed the dollar bill and placed it on the driver seat. Keplinger moved to the passenger side and looked inside the popcorn bag. He observed a black pouch mixed in with the popcorn. He removed the pouch from the bag and observed a clear glass pipe with a bulb on the end containing a clear crystal substance. Based on his training and experience, he knew this to be a pipe commonly used for smoking methamphetamine.
Keplinger went back to the driver side and observed a powdery substance on the dollar bill. As he examined the dollar, a gust of wind blew into the car and blew the powder into his face. He asked Officer Vasquez to contact Alva EMS to come to the location as he might have been exposed to a controlled dangerous substance.
Keplinger then went back to the vehicle and placed the dollar bill with the unknown substance into a Ziploc bag. He spoke to Rivera and asked what was on the dollar bill. Rivera said it was probably meth. Keplinger asked if the meth was cut with anything, and Rivera told him probably Fentanyl. Keplinger asked if there was anything else in the vehicle, and he said he didn’t think so.
Alva EMS arrived on scene to assist.
Keplinger asked Officer Jones to place Ruiz into his patrol vehicle. Keplinger and Vasquez began to look in the rear of the vehicle. Keplinger observed dust disturbance on the rubber seals on the back hatch of the car.
Keplinger went back to the driver’s seat of his patrol vehicle and shut the air off inside the car. He then put on nitrile gloves and slowly pulled the dollar bill from the bag, placing it on his driver’s seat. He grabbed a methamphetamine test kid, and tested the substance. He got a positive test result for methamphetamine. He placed the dollar bill with the meth back into the bag along with the test kit.
EMT Bullock went with Keplinger to his vehicle and asked how he was felling. Keplinger said he was sweating more than usual and his hand had begun to tremor.
Officer Vasquez told Keplinger he observed a black plastic bag sitting on top of the foam insert in the spare tire compartment of the vehicle. Keplinger approached the rear of the vehicle and attempted to put on gloves. As he put on the right glove his right hand started to shake uncontrollably. He attempted to place his left hand into the glove and started to shake involuntarily. He then lost control of his body and started to have a seizure.
EMS was standing by him and helped him get on the ground. Keplinger started to go in and out of consciousness. He felt as if he had no control of his body and felt his heart rate increase. EMS stripped off Keplinger’s gear and administered a dose of Naxalone in each nostril. EMS told him his pupils dilated and he continued to go in and out of consciousness. EMS transported Keplinger to Share Medical Center in Alva where he was admitted to be treated at approximately 9:40 p.m.
Woods County Undersheriff Keith Dale arrived at the hospital and told Keplinger he had contacted the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) to assist in the investigation.
Officer Keplinger was discharged from the hospital at approximately 11:34 p.m. He returned to the scene and spoke with OBN Agent Brandon Powell who had arrived to assist. Power said a Hazmat team was responding to the scene due to the exposure and hazard the substances in the vehicle posed to the health and safety of the public. Keplinger released the scene to the OBN at approximately 11:40 p.m.
OBN agents processed the scene and took custody of the evidence. In consultation with OBN, agents told Keplinger the M-30 pills were counterfeit. In review of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s official website, photographs on the website confirm the M-30 pills are counterfeit oxycodone tablets containing fentanyl. Approximately 6,000 M-30 Fentnyl pills were located in three packages in the vehicle and are awaiting lab results.
Rivera and Ruiz were transported to the Woods County Jail and were booked by jail staff.
Luis Angel Rivera, 35, and Lisa Marie Ruiz, 44, both of Phoenix, Arizona, have each been charged with aggravated trafficking in illegal drugs (Fentanyl), a felony. This crime is punishable by imprisonment for two years to life and a fine of $250,000 to $500,000.
Both Rivera and Ruiz have also been charged with possession of controlled dangerous substance (methamphetamine), a misdemeanor. This crime is punishable by imprisonment for not more than one year and by a fine not exceeding $1,000.
No bond has been set in these cases. A Brill hearing to determine an appearance bond has been set for May 16.