A 43-year-old Washington County Sheriff’s deputy from Oakdale is accused of stealing drugs from the prescription drug drop-off site at the Washington County Law Enforcement Center in Stillwater.
The man, identified in court documents as Ricky Harry Gruber, was a 15-year WCSO employee. Gruber resigned from the Sheriff’s Office Feb. 12, shortly after co-workers caught him stealing the prescription drugs.
“My reaction was one of disbelief when I had first heard about it. I’ve been doing this job for 29 years and unfortunately, I’ve had experiences with officers who made some poor choices,” said Sheriff Bill Hutton said. “But this was in our house and it’s not how we do things.”
According to a 10th Judicial District Court criminal complaint, the investigation into the stolen prescription drugs began the evening of Jan. 25, when another deputy noticed the drug drop-off bin was slightly ajar. The bin is supposed to be secure at all times, but both bin locks were unlocked and the drug drum that should have been in the bin was missing. There was no sign of forced entry. The bin is only accessible by certain WCSO personnel.
The affidavit said when the deputy returned the morning of Jan. 28 the bin was half-full. There was no public access to the bin since the deputy last checked it and it had not been changed out. Video surveillance was added and on Feb. 6, another deputy involved in the investigation said Gruber, who didn’t have access to the bin, was filmed opening it, removing the drum and returning it shortly after.
The affidavit added that on Feb. 12, Gruber was seen on various live-feed videos removing the bin, going through the drugs, picking some out, taking them to his office and returning the bin to the box.
Gruber was apprehended and told deputies that he had gained access to the bin by stealing and making copies of bin keys from a deputy authorized to remove drugs from the bin. Gruber admitted taking the drugs from the bin and the most recent items he took were in a red bag on his desk. The bag contained a variety of items and drugs including Amoxicillan, Hydroxyzine, and Trazadone in addition to other drugss which require a prescription to possess. The estimated value of the drugs is $1,000.
Hutton said the sheriff’s office is embarrassed and very apologetic about the incident.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me, ‘Sheriff, you didn’t do it, you shouldn’t have to apologize’, ” Hutton said “But the analogy I use is if one of your kids does something wrong or bad, breaks a window or steals something from a neighbor, you go next door and you apologize and you make it right. It’s one of our own that did it and that’s my responsibility as sheriff.”
Hutton added that he knows this case has impacted trust in the community. He said security changes regarding the prescription drop-off locations have occurred internally since the incident and remain constantly under review.
“I know we’ve lost some trust from the public, we’ll do everything we can to gain that back.” he said. “Hopefully they understand that it is only one person, albeit one is too many, but the other folks in the office do a great job. And this incident again highlights the problem that we have in our communities of prescription drug abuse.”
Gruber’s first court appearance is scheduled for May 15.