The case against two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers accused of helping a drug dealer may also involve unreported money from a drug bust and arsons at two houses – including one that was mistakenly burned, court documents show.
Officer Jason Ross seized cocaine, drug scales, and a pistol from alleged drug dealer David Lockhart last July during a search of a business on Tuckaseegee Road, court records show.
Officer Ross did not report finding any money, records show.
But a confidential source has told investigators that Lockhart had $6,000 in cash at the time of the search, court documents show. The source says he had helped count the money.
Lockhart told investigators that he had at least $2,500 at the time, and that the two police officers allowed him to keep the money, according to an FBI affidavit.
Officers Ross and Gerald Holas resigned last week and were charged with conspiring to distribute crack cocaine. Lockhart is also charged in the conspiracy. All three made brief appearances in court Thursday but their bond hearings were postponed.
Holas and Ross, both 35, are accused of helping Lockhart, 25, avoid police detection and of protecting his illegal drug activity.
Police Chief Rodney Monroe said he's disappointed in the officers' arrests.
“It pisses off a lot of officers,” said Monroe, whose department worked with the FBI in the investigation. “We're going to stay on task. We're going to rise above it.”
Court documents paint a yearlong relationship and cite several incidents in which the officers helped Lockhart – warning him about possible drug busts and once helping him find a man so he could take revenge.
According to the affidavit, Lockhart claimed he had been robbed of cocaine and money last October and asked officers Ross and Holas to help find the robber.
Within a day, Lockhart had a name and soon received a text message from a police officer - not named in the affidavit - with a possible address.
Lockhart then went to the house, poured gasoline on the back, and set it on fire, the affidavit says. A police arson report locates the house on Beech Nut Road in west Charlotte.
Lillie Cunningham remembers that night, Oct. 21, being awakened by the smell of smoke, and racing with her husband and son from the house.
“Smoke was on the inside ... It was just black,” Cunningham said Thursday. She remains unsure why anybody might have targeted her home and family, she says.
The affidavit says Lockhart waited outside the house to see if the man he was after fled.
When Lockhart didn't see him, he told his associates he had the wrong house, the affidavit says. So he again contacted Holas and/or Ross.
Officer Ross looked up a report that showed another possible address for the man Lockhart was after, the affidavit says.
Lockhart then went to that house on Oct. 22, according to the affidavit, and threw flaming bottles filled with gasoline against the house. The affidavit says the man Lockhart was after ran from the house, also in west Charlotte.
Makinya Lawrence, who was asleep in the Reeves Court house that night, told the Observer Thursday she was shaken awake by her mother around 1 a.m.
“Wake up, wake up, the house is on fire,” she remembers her mother saying.
The two got out safely.
Lawrence said she's never heard of David Lockhart and that her family remains puzzled about the attack.
Lockhart's only criminal record in North Carolina was a conviction for resisting an officer and fleeing to elude arrest in a 2006 incident.
After their court appearances Thursday, Lockhart and the former officers Ross and Holas were returned to the Mecklenburg County jail. Holas and Ross are being held in protective custody, away from the general population.
Federal probation authorities are recommending that the officers remain in jail until their trial.
The officers' attorneys have declined to discuss the charges.
“Jerry Holas is a fine man,” attorney Tony Scheer said Thursday. “His wife and two small kids want him home very badly.”
Holas, on the force since 1998, was assigned to the street crimes division.
Ross' attorney, Chris Fialko, said: “All Americans have a presumption of innocence. That should especially apply to police officers who have been protecting our community.”
Ross was a patrol officer on the force since 2002.
Victoria Cherrie contributed.