EDINBURG, TEXAS (ValleyCentral) — A former La Joya ISD police officer pleaded not guilty to a felony drug charge Monday.

Jose Luis Ramirez Jr., 34, of Sullivan City pleaded not guilty to possession of a controlled substance — three vials of THC oil —  Monday during a hearing at the Hidalgo County Courthouse.

Attorney Jesus “Jesse” Villalobos Jr., who represents Ramirez, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Ramirez attended La Joya High School and studied criminal justice at Michigan State University, according to documents released under the Texas Public Information Act.

After graduation, Ramirez worked in Arizona and in Kyle, Texas, before returning to the Rio Grande Valley.

The La Joya Independent School District hired Ramirez in 2015. After a short stint as a security guard, Ramirez became a police officer in 2016, according to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records. The job paid nearly $33,600 a year.

In November 2020, about six years after Ramirez returned to the Valley, he decided to run for Sullivan City Council. Ramirez lost to City Councilman Rene “Cuate” Peña by a wide margin.

Ramirez made headlines again during April 2022, when agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety witnessed a “suspicious hand to hand transaction” outside an Academy Sports + Outdoors in McAllen.

According to a report filed by the agents, they witnessed the driver of a red Chevrolet sedan hand “a small package” to the driver of a blue Chevrolet truck.  Minutes later, a state trooper stopped the blue truck and found Ramirez behind the wheel.

Ramirez appeared nervous and started sweating, according to the criminal complaint against him.

When the trooper searched the truck, he discovered a pistol, three vials of THC oil and 4 ounces of synthetic urine.

“RAMIREZ stated that the synthetic urine was for his use when he was drug tested at work,” according to the criminal complaint.

La Joya ISD placed Ramirez on unpaid leave after his arrest. He left the La Joya ISD Police Department less than a month later.

Ramirez is charged with possession of a controlled substance, a third-degree felony; unlawfully carrying a weapon, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of a substance designed to falsify drug test results, a Class B misdemeanor.

If convicted on the felony charge, Ramirez faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.