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Indoor Vegetable Garden Sparks SWAT Team Raid

swat team raid hydroponicsA SWAT team smashed down a family’s front door with a battering ram and held a couple and their two children at gunpoint for two hours because the father had bought supplies for vegetables and the mother drank tea.

“It was just like on the Cops TV shows,” Robert Harte said of the April 2012, raid on his family home in Leawood, Kansas, which only came to light recently because of the family’s public stance and a follow-up lawsuit. “It was like Zero Dark Thirty ready to storm the compound.”

The SWAT team from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office targeted the Hartes because Robert had gone to Kansas City and purchased supplies from a hydroponic gardening store, KSHB reported. Deputies later traced Harte to his home and searched the family’s garbage multiple times. Tea leaves in the garbage convinced the sheriff’s office that the Hartes were running an illegal marijuana grow house.

Deputies found no marijuana in the Harte home and then refused to tell the family the reason for the raid. Instead, Harte and his wife Adlynn, who are former employees of the CIA, had to spend $25,000 suing the county to discover why the SWAT team paid them a visit.

Tip Leads to Unwarranted Searches and Raid

The Hartes learned that a Missouri Highway Patrol officer had seen Bob at the hydroponics store in Kansas City, Missouri, on August 9, 2011, and passed that information onto the sheriff’s office, KSHB said. The sheriff’s office used that tip as a pretext to search the family’s garbage.

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“With little or no other evidence of any illegal activity, law enforcement officers make the assumption that shoppers at the store are potential marijuana growers, even though the stores are most commonly frequented by backyard gardeners who grow organically or start seedlings indoors,” the Johnson’s lawsuit alleged.

Part of the reason the couple filed the lawsuit was to show their neighbors they were not drug dealers. They claim authorities deliberately withheld information in violation of a state law called the Kansas Open Records Act. The Hartes even allege that the sheriff’s office lied about the existence of records about the raid.

Father: No One Is Safe

“If this can happen to us and we are educated and have reasonable resources, how does somebody who maybe hasn’t led a perfect life supposed to be free in this country?” Adlynn Harte asked the Associated Press.

The Hartes said their seven-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son were shocked and frightened by the raid. The children had to remain on the couch while armed deputies searched the home.

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The deputies didn’t find any marijuana but they did find three tomato plants, one melon plant, and two butternut squash plants growing in the basement of their home. After a drug sniffing dog turned up no evidence of marijuana, the deputies left.

A Wakeup Call To Gun Owners?

Some say the same zero-tolerance philosophy that gave rise to drug laws and raids is now being used against guns.

State laws in New York and Connecticut already make it a felony to own some legally purchased guns and New Jersey is trying to pass a similar law. Some gun owners in Connecticut and New York City have even reported receiving letters ordering them to dispose of legally purchased guns.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents raided a gun store in California in an attempt to get a list of customers, as Off The Grid News reported. The store’s owner had reportedly refused to comply with an order to turn the list of customers over to the ATF.

It isn’t hard to imagine police raiding homes to obtain illegal guns. Many more law-abiding citizens could soon be in the situation as the Hartes.

Tell us what you think about the gun raid in the comments below.

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