Columbus police are expressing concern about the health of a fellow officer stuck with a needle on a syringe early Monday, police said.
Patrolman Mark Hutch-eson, whose finger was pricked while searching one of four people in a vehicle that was pulled over for a minor traffic violation, was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital and later released, according to Columbus Police Department spokesman Lt. Matt Myers.
While Hutcheson is showing no signs of infection, being stuck by a used hypodermic needle has the potential to transmit infectious blood-borne diseases such as AIDS or a form of hepatitis, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“This is a very serious situation,” Myers said.
At 4 a.m. Monday, Hutcheson pulled over a Honda Accord near Ninth and Sycamore streets for a burned-out headlight and noticed what seemed to be the smell of marijuana coming from the car while talking to the driver, Myers said.
At Hutcheson’s request, K-9 officer Branch Schrader and his police dog, Argo, were brought to the scene, where the canine appeared to confirm the presence of an illegal narcotic, Myers said. While one person admitted the four had been smoking marijuana earlier, he also claimed there were no illegal drugs inside the vehicle, Myers added.
After all four occupants were asked to step outside, Hutcheson felt what he thought might be an end cap to a syringe in the pocket of a female occupant, later identified as Jessica L. Olson, 29, of 7565 N. County Road 900W, Elizabethtown, the police spokesman said. When the officer asked the woman if she was carrying syringes, Olson allegedly said, “No,” Myers said.
But as the body search continued, Hutcheson was stuck by the syringe needle that was in Olson’s waistband, Myers said. After Hutcheson asked her why she didn’t warn him, Olson insisted she had informed the officer a syringe was in her pocket, Myers said.
When it was discovered that Olson had given police a false name, investigators were able to not only confirm her identity but also learned the Elizabethtown woman was being sought on an arrest warrant for three earlier drug-related charges, Myers said.
As Hutcheson was preparing to take her into custody, Olson tried to run away, Myers said. Police saw her throw a syringe on the ground moments before she was apprehended, he added.
Besides the charges on the arrest warrant, Olson was booked into the Bartholomew County Jail on Monday morning on new charges of illegal possession of a syringe, a Class D felony; resisting law enforcement as a Class A misdemeanor; and false informing, a Class B misdemeanor, according to jail records.
As of late Monday morning, Olson was still being held in lieu of $21,000 surety bond or $2,100 cash bond, jail officials said.
Formal charges, if any, will be determined by the office of Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash.
After two partially burned marijuana cigarettes were found in the front of the car, police cited the driver, Christopher D. Runge, 21, 4960 Somerset Lane, Columbus, for a misdemeanor possession charge, Myers said.
The remaining two occupants of the car, described by Myers as cooperative, were not arrested, he said.