IMPERIAL, Mo. (KMOV.com) - The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department launched an internal affairs investigation after an Imperial resident filed a complaint about the actions of three deputies, which were recorded on a home security system.
Ashley Mathis first noticed something unusual Sunday night.
"I was getting ready for bed, we'd been gone all day. And I looked over at the monitor, because it sits on the desk in our bedroom and noticed that camera 1 is black," said Mathis.
Mathis and her fiancé, Gary Schuetz, backed up the video for camera 1 and saw three deputies walked into their yard earlier in the day while the couple was gone. Then the video shows one of the deputies reaching up and putting something on the lens, blocking its view. The security camera turned out to have mud on the lens.
"I want to know what they were here for," said Schuetz.
Mathis said the actions of the officers were suspicious and very concerning, so she filed a formal complaint with the sheriff’s department.
"Why would the Jefferson County police officers have the need to come and cover my cameras, what was their intentions?" she said.
The sheriff’s department released a statement that said, in part:
“We began an internal affairs investigation immediately because an incident like this is something we take very seriously. This is not a standard practice and it appears to be an isolated incident.”
After interviewing all three deputies, the sheriff’s department said the officers had gone to the house because they had an arrest warrant out of St. Louis County for an individual who was believed to be living in the home. No one was there at the time but sheriff’s officials say one of the deputies decided to cover the lens of the security camera, hoping the individual wouldn’t see them approach if they returned.
The officer didn’t return to the home and Mathis said they had the wrong address because she’s lived there since 2008.
"This is uncalled for,” said Schuetz.
The sheriff’s department characterized the officers’ decision to put mud on the surveillance camera as a lapse in judgment. But a spokesperson for the department said the officers would learn from the experience and that this mistake wouldn’t happen again.
The deputy has been disciplined but is still on the job, authorities said.