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Clayton County police officer faces federal drug charges

ATLANTA — A Clayton County police officer faces life in prison and more than $10 million in fines if he is convicted on drug trafficking, firearms and corruption charges, said federal officials Thursday.

Dwayne A. Penn, 38, of Atlanta was arrested Wednesday after prosecutors said he planned an elaborate scheme to steal 6 kilos of “cocaine” from a law enforcement source posing as a drug dealer. Penn was arrested with Adrian Demetric Austin, 38, of Atlanta, a suspected drug dealer.

Interim Clayton County Police Chief Chris Butler said Penn was a nine-year veteran of the department who was on assignment to the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force. Butler said Penn is on unpaid leave pending an internal investigation.

Butler asked for the public’s support in the wake of Penn’s arrest.

“The Clayton County Police Department remains dedicated and committed to serving and protecting Clayton County residents and businesses,” he said. “We ask that you continue your support of those unfaltering officers.”

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said Penn’s arrest reflects a “shocking” abuse of trust.

“Penn’s abuse of trust is shocking,” she said. “Police officers who manipulate their positions create mistrust with the people they are sworn to protect. As demonstrated by the number of police officer cases charged earlier this year, we are committed to pursuing these cases wherever they arise to restore the public’s trust in honest law enforcement.”

Yates said the investigation revealed that Penn allegedly conspired with Austin to use Penn’s position as a police officer to stage a fake traffic stop of a car they believed was transporting 6 kilograms of cocaine. Penn planned to conduct a fake arrest of the car’s occupant, seize the cocaine for themselves, and then sell the cocaine, splitting the profits, said Yates.

“Fortunately, the person whom Penn and Austin sought to recruit for this corrupt endeavor was cooperating with federal law enforcement and agreed to record meetings with Penn and Austin,” she said.

Penn and Austin met with the confidential informant Aug. 21 and 27 to plan the operation in the days leading up to Wednesday’s traffic stop, Yates said. Penn allegedly drove to both meetings, which were recorded by agents, in his police patrol car.

“Penn worked through the logistics, including where he would park during the cocaine deal, and how he would conduct the fake traffic stop, arrest, seizure and the eventual split of the seized 6 kilograms of cocaine,” Yates said.

Penn and Austin were arrested shortly afterward in the vicinity of the Decatur parking lot. They made their first appearance before a federal magistrate judge Thursday.