MTSU police officer’s own body cam helps convict him in corruption case

Posted at 6:37 AM, Jun 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 07:08:39-04

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — A former Middle Tennessee State University police officer has been convicted of corruption after evidence was captured on his own body camera.

Police Chief Buddy Peaster suspected Marco Burke of stealing an AR-15 from an MTSU police locker and with the help of Murfreesboro Police, set up an on-campus sting.

"What really it's called is an integrity test," said Peaster.

Officer Burke was sent alone to investigate an abandoned vehicle. During the search, his body cam video shows him grab a bottle of pills, which he pockets.

Then Burke also grabs $1100 cash and another bottle of pills.

Moments later, he reports nothing unusual to dispatch.

"Just a vehicle, unoccupied. That's it," Burke could be heard saying.

Moments later, back in his squad car you can hear audio of Burke shuffling papers, possibly counting the money he's just taken.

"The key was... was he going to report these items as inventory taken from the car," said Chief Peaster.

Burke did not and he was arrested. He then made a call to his wife from the Rutherford County jail.

"I got caught up in something and I got in trouble. I know what I did.They did a sting and I got caught. I'm so embarrassed," says Burke.

The hidden cameras set by police for the sting showed Burke at the car from a distance but it was his body cam video that did the real damage at trial. Why would he leave the camera on?

"I think it was a habit out of training and he turned it on and it was a habit and not thinking about it," said Chief Peaster.

Before the trial this month, prosecutors pressed Burke about what happened to the AR-15. He denied ever taking the gun and was never charged. The weapon has not been recovered.

But Chief Peaster said the sting still worked, exposing an officer who had gone bad.

"Now you've become the type of person you are trying to defend your community against."

Burke ended up pleading guilty to three felonies and at trial, was convicted of tampering with evidence. He faces three to 15 years in prison at sentencing next month.

Murfreesboro police did plant real cash in the bait car. But the pill bottles were made to look like they contained Oxycontin but were actually sugar pills.