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A SWAT team raided a Texas organic farm on an alleged drug bust search, found nothing – and then walked away with 20,000 pounds of legal crops and possessions.
Garden of Eden farm owner Shellie Smith told local media outlets that a Texas SWAT team took approximately 20 blackberry bushes as well as sunflowers which were being grown for gifts and to aid bees. A sweet potato patch and some okra plants were whittled to the ground with a Weed-Eater, and the weeds which had shaded her crops also were hacked away, she said.
The Texas SWAT team was given a probable cause search warrant to enter the farm. Among the other confiscated items: several dozen tires which contained stagnant water, in addition to compost, furniture and wooden pallets.
“They came here under the guise that we were doing a drug trafficking, marijuana-growing operation,” Smith told the local TV station. “They destroyed everything.”
No marijuana plants were found.
City of Arlington representative Sana Syed said everything that was done was legal
“The purpose [of the removal of private property] was to improve the quality of life, to resolve life safety issues within neighborhoods and to hold the property owner responsible for creating blight conditions on their property,” Syed said.
The city’s statement also noted that “several” unnamed neighbors had complained about the property and remarked they were concerned about their health and safety due to “unsanitary” conditions which could promote the presence of mosquitos, rodents and be fire hazards.
Photos published of the Garden of Eden farm show a secluded property surrounded by mature trees.
Smith was given official notice about the property concerns and did fail to attend a Nuisance Determination Hearing on the matter. Smith was fighting the city on the alleged violations and did not expect debate to culminate in a police raid. Video footage of various areas of the farm do not show a rundown property, but a delightful homestead filled with wildflowers and natural growing areas.
Eight adults were handcuffed during the raid. Among them was Quinn Eaker, the only one arrested – for outstanding traffic violations.
“I think every single right we have was violated,” he told WFAA-TV. “Every single one.”
The city’s statement reads in part:
“During the City’s investigation, the Arlington Police Department received a number of complaints that the same property owner was cultivating marijuana plants on the premises. On August 2, Arlington police officers executed a separate search warrant at Smith’s property on Mansfield Cardinal Road in reference to the narcotics complaints. Members of APD’s tactical unit assisted in the execution of this search warrant to secure the location so that narcotics detectives could safely enter the property. Several people on the property were initially handcuffed, as is standard procedure in narcotics investigations. Once it was safe to do so, they were un-handcuffed within 30 minutes and allowed to conduct their daily business around the property, including the opportunity to leave the premises if they so desired.”
Smith made a big mistake when she did not attend the nuisance hearing to address the complaints. Do we now live in a society where if we find the “hippie” demeanor of the homesteading folks next door offensive, we simply can file a complaint containing wild accusations and let the SWAT team alleviate our angst? The probable cause needed to search and effectively destroy someone’s farm should meet a much higher threshold than accusations from a few unidentified neighbors.
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