A sheriff’s deputy is accused of stealing from the empty house of a dying man while Hurricane Irma put south Florida in a state of emergency. The incident was caught on security video.
Jay Rosoff called the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 12 and requested a welfare check for his 85-year-old father. Rosoff, who lives in North Carolina, told deputies the indoor surveillance camera in his father’s Boynton Beach home did not detect any movement, according to a document obtained by CNN. His father, Moe Rosoff, had remained alone during the hurricane.
Three deputies responded and found Rosoff, who family members say had fallen and hit his head during a power outage, on the floor of the master bathroom. He was transported to a nearby hospital, and the deputies left the home. Rosoff died the same day.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Deputy Jason Cooke, who was not involved in the initial call, later came to the home and was shown on video going through the house. Police say Cooke has confessed to taking drugs from the home. He was arrested on Oct. 19 on several charges, including burglary and larceny.
Incident recorded on security video
Here is how the affidavit describes the incident:
Cooke, in uniform, arrived at Rosoff’s home about an hour and a half after the other deputies left.
The home’s surveillance camera alerted Jay Rosoff and his brother Steven that there was movement inside their father’s home. They immediately watched the footage, and said they saw Cooke enter the home through the garage. The deputy learned the entry code by listening to the initial call, officials said.
The video shows Cooke go into the master bedroom, the documents say, but it is unknown what he did there because the camera is in the common area. He reappears a couple of minutes later as he walks from the bedroom to the kitchen. Cooke picks up an item that seems to be a container and empties it on his hand before putting it in his pocket, the documents say, adding that he does this again with a second item and proceeds to inspect the kitchen cabinets and drawers.
Cooke disappears as he goes to the rooms in the front of the house. He later reappears walking back to the garage and is seen holding his hand on his mouth as if he were consuming something, the documents say.
The deputy left the home minutes after he entered it. The Rosoff brothers reported the incident, and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation.
“We were outraged and disgusted when we viewed this,” a Rosoff family statement said.
‘A bad decision’
Another deputy identified Cooke on the video during the investigation. He was questioned and confessed to taking Tramadol from the home. It is a pain reliever that is a Schedule 4 controlled substance. Cooke also admitted taking some other medications from a death investigation and not submitting them to evidence, police said.
Teri Barbera, public information officer for Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, said the department “never forgets about its duty to preserve the public’s trust.”
“Unfortunately, sometimes an employee makes a bad decision, which leads to misconduct,” Barbera said. “We investigated and determined his actions were criminal in nature, resulting in the charges.”
Cooke was released on October 20 on $28,000 bond and is on administrative leave from the sheriff’s office.
The conditions of his release include receiving substance abuse treatment, random drug tests at least once a week, and the surrender of his firearms to the sheriff’s office. Cooke is due back in court on November 20.
‘A perfect example of the opioid epidemic’
Cooke’s attorney, Stuart Kaplan, told CNN this case is “a perfect example of the opioid epidemic, with respect to medication.”
The attorney said his client has faced “traumatizing” circumstances in both his personal life and in his job as a police officer.
Kaplan said he understands the gravity of the situation but that he hopes people are “compassionate” when someone steals medication for personal use because of an addiction.
“The video speaks for itself, and it highlights the epidemic we’re dealing with,” Kaplan said. “People who have good intentions, good people, can get hooked on these medications.”
The attorney would not comment on the criminal proceedings against his client.