Buying the wrong kind of fertilizer from a certain garden store can lead to a raid by the DEA. That’s what Angela Kirking discovered when she was awakened by four DEA agents and nine police officers in her home at 5 a.m. in the morning last year.
“I bought a bottle of organic fertilizer, a 16-ounce bottle,” Kirking told The Huffington Post. “Three weeks later I was raided by the DEA.”
Kirking’s ordeal began in September 2013, when she went to a store called Midwest Hydroganics in the Chicago suburb of Crest Hill, Illinois, to buy garden supplies. Kirking didn’t realize that police officer Donn Kaminski had the store staked out.
Kirking was targeted for investigation because she left the store “carrying a green plastic bag containing unknown items,” according to Kaminski.
The nighttime raid then ensued. The SWAT team awakened her at 5 a.m. on October 11, 2013.
‘They Had a Gun Pointed at Me’
“They were in full attack mode, came at me guns raised, flashlights. Just like you see in the movies,” Kirking told the website. “I had to ask them for a warrant. I said, ‘Who are you,’ when they came in the bedroom. Somebody said, ‘DEA.’ … They had a gun pointed at me when they said, ‘Are there any illegal substances in your house?’”
The DEA and police were able to get a warrant to search Kirking’s house because her electric bills were higher than her neighbors’ bills. Officers believed that indicated she was running an illegal marijuana growing operation.
Agents used that as an excuse to conduct an “investigative garbage pull” — rooting through Kirking’s trash. When they searched the trash the agents found several green plant stems they claimed smelled like marijuana.
When they searched the house, agents reportedly found three glass pipes, scales and a two books on how to grow marijuana, according to The Patch, a Chicago area newspaper. The Huffington Post reported that agents seized less than a third of an ounce of marijuana from Kirking’s home.
Her supporters say the raid – even if she had a small amount of marijuana – is evidence of government overreach and misplaced priorities.
Hibiscus Led to Raid
Kirking, an artist, said that she went to Midwest Hydroganics to buy organic fertilizer for her hibiscus plant. Her attorney, Jeff Tomczak, said as many as 10 other people were also targeted by drug agents after shopping at the store.
“The lady comes under investigation simply because she shopped at a particular store,” Tomczak told Judge Bennett Braun in a recent court hearing. Tomczak asked Braun to suppress the warrant, which would force prosecutors to drop charges against Kirking.
Police apparently charged Kirking with misdemeanors for possessing a small amount of marijuana. During the hearing Braun noted that his electric bills, too, are higher than normal which would presumably make the judge a target for such a raid.
Is Shopping a Crime?
Kirking is not the first person whose home was raided because of a shopping trip for gardening supplies. Off the Grid News reported that a SWAT team smashed down the door of Robert and Adlynn Harte’s home because Robert had shopped at a hydroponics store in Kansas City, Missouri. The couple lives in Kansas.
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Harte had apparently been shopping for supplies for growing hydroponic vegetables when a Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper wrote down his license plate number. The county sheriff’s office used that as a pretext to search the family’s garbage. Sheriff’s deputies used tea found in the couple’s garbage as evidence for a search warrant.
Police stake out hydroponics stores because marijuana growers sometimes use hydroponics. Unfortunately, many-law abiding citizens are caught up in drug stings.
What do you think about the nighttime raid? Let us know in the comments below.