Another Isolated Incident

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Fish tank, meth lab—whatever.

Brooklyn Park police were looking for a meth lab, but they found a fish tank and the chemicals needed to maintain it.

And a few hours later, when the city sent a contractor to fix the door the police had smashed open Monday afternoon, it was obvious the city was trying to fix a mistake.

It happened while Kathy Adams was sleeping.

"And the next thing I know, a police officer is trying to get me out bed," she said.

And what thorough investigative work precipitated this raid?

Roehl said the drug task force was acting on a tip from a subcontractor for CenterPoint Energy, who had been in the home Friday to install a hot water heater.

"He got hit with a chemical smell that he said made him light headed, feel kind of nauseous," Roehl said.

The smell was vinegar, and maybe pickling lime, which were clearly marked in a bathroom Mr. Adams uses to mix chemicals for his salt water fish tank.

"I said, ‘I call it his laboratory for his fish tanks,’ " Mrs. Adams said, recalling her conversation with the CenterPoint technician. "I’m looking at the fish tank talking to this guy."

Police say there was no extended investigation, just an interview with the subcontractor.

Still, no one did anything wrong.

"From a cursory view, it doesn’t look like our officers did anything wrong," said Capt. Greg Roehl.

[...]

"Everything this person told us turned out to be true, with the exception of what the purpose of the lab was," Roehl said.

[...]

Police say the detective who asked for the search warrant is an 8 ½-year veteran, but he just started working in the drug task force.

CenterPoint energy maintains the home was "unsafe" and it would have "irresponsible" for the subcontractor not to report it.

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21 Responses to “Another Isolated Incident”

  1. #1 |  drobviousso | 

    Ahh, I feel sooooo good about uprooting my family and moving the to twin cities earlier this year…

  2. #2 |  Mike | 

    Heh,
    I’ve had that kind of fish tank before :) You use pickling lime to create disolved calcium which is needed for Salt Water fish tanks with a coral reef style tanks. This is the first time I have heard of it being busted as a meth lab. It’s much more common that they would be busted as a pot farm, as these tanks also require very intense lighting that would be used in hydoponics.

  3. #3 |  Whim | 

    THANK GOODNESS that the War on Drugs is keeping us safe from those dangerous home Salt Water Fish Tanks!

    The article didn’t mention if Mrs. Adams awoke to a big GUN staring her in the face. Just a policeman trying to wake her up?

    I hope she didn’t sleep au naturele.

    Since they are considering suing, I wonder what the liability for the company and its employee are who turned her name into the police?

    The company certainly doesn’t have any qualified immunity for egregious law enforcement mistakes as due our police forces……

  4. #4 |  sam | 

    “Everything this person told us turned out to be true, with the exception of what the purpose of the lab was,” Roehl said.

    I’m gonna appropriate this logic, I think.

    “No officer, I’m completely sober, with the exception of those 3 Long Island Iced Teas I had.”

  5. #5 |  John | 

    While so many of these raids are precipitated by knowingly dishonest informants, it’s interesting to see one caused by an informant ignorant of what he was looking at (like seeing plants that resemble marijuana). Do the police have no responsibility to determine if the subcontractor would be able to recognize a meth lab in the first place? Regular people make stupid claims of crime all the time, and it is the responsibility of police to actually investigate appropriately.

  6. #6 |  Vermin Kol | 

    I guess these police never heard of a “knock and talk”. If they would’ve just done that it would’ve been cleared up within minutes and no knocking down doors.

    This women and her husband GETTIN’ PAID!

  7. #7 |  Nick T | 

    Sadly they probably won’t get paid. They really can’t go after this stupid workman for reporting what he htought might have been illegal activity to the police. Despite the terrible consequences here, that may not be the type of thing we want to strongly discourage, and certainly courts will very likely see it that way. And we know what happens when you sue the cops for this stuff.

    This all goes back to the idea that the police are just looking for excuses to play commando and kick down doors. If they really cared about getting rid of drugs and/or protecting innocent people from having their doors kicked in this could have been investigated so easily: mild surveillance, discussions with neighbors, showing the workman legitimate fish chemicals and hving him compare. That they jumped to such a drastic approach is telling.

  8. #8 |  Kevin | 

    Marine aquariums can be quite complicated, chemically speaking. But, their chemical setup is nothing like a meth lab. The products and equipment are not similar. Either the technician imagined all kinds of things, or things were hidden or moved later (which I find unlikely, the police would have found traces)

    One caveat is that in all my years of keeping marine aquariums, I never got light headed or dizzy from the chemicals, they are generally quite inert. I just don’t see pickling lime doing that. And I have not heard of using vinegar in the hobby, so I do wonder what might have caused that smell if it was really there. My guess is the technician was just overly sensitive to it.

    That this precipitated a no knock raid is quite silly, and the ‘informant’, the police, and the judge who issued the order should all be quite thoroughly embarrassed. Bashing down doors on the word of someone who does not know anything about what they claim to be suspicious really makes no sense. How did that conversation go?

    Technician: “They had chemicals, and a strong smell. It’s just like on Breaking Bad. It must be a meth lab. Even though they have a complex aquarium, and that’s what the lady told me the chemicals are for. ”

    Police: “Have you ever seen an actual meth lab?”

    Technician: “Yeah, on Breaking Bad, and on CSI once. And I’ve never seen an aquarium lab on CSI, so that must be a lie.”

    Police: “Good enough for me. Let’s go bust some doors down.”

    It should have been a big huge old clue (clues are those things police used to use to solve crimes (: ) that the ‘suspects’ in this case were not attempting to hide anything from the technician. Another clue would be that there actually was a complex looking aquarium operating there. Verification of this clue would have taken 30 minutes on wikipedia’s entry on marine aquariums.

  9. #9 |  Frank | 

    Sue the contractor.

    Sue CenterPoint.

    Sue Hennepin County.

    Sue every police officer involved.

    Sue Judge Ivy Bernhardson, report her ass to the bar, revoke her license to practice law.

    This could have easily been another dead cop/capital murder charge on the homeowner. For a fucking salt-water fish tank.

    It’s time to acknowledge what has been de factor for decades — a state of war exists between law enforcement and the rest of us, and it’s long past time to start acting like it.

    “If cops continue to play at being an army of occupation, they should expect the subjects to play their role in return. Vive la resistance.”

    - J. D. Tuccille

  10. #10 |  pierre | 

    I wasnt aware that it is illegal to have a home laboratory. Whatever happened to confirming a reported crime? Serving the warrant isnt the confirmation stage, its the endgame.

    There was another story not too long ago that someones landlord saw a bright light coming from the closet and calls the police. They raid the house based on nothing but the landlords report. It ended up being hydroponic tomatoes.

    I think we should all grow hydroponic tomatoes, and set up a huge laboratories in the front windows of our houses.

    I would move to Canada but they don’t like my guns. I’m sick of this rotting stinking shitehole that is America.

  11. #11 |  Against Stupidity | 

    This subcontractor/technician has a problem. If I was the owner of the business he worked for, he would be fired and any work that was performed by him would be free of charge with a sincere apology. This bullshit they said about the home being unsafe is just CYA because they know their subcontractor overreacted, said some things that were untrue, and now they just might get sued.

    People need to learn when you go to the police, you must never under any circumstance embellish or exaggerate anything you witnessed, especially if that’s what the police want.

    Capt. Greg Roehl thinks his officers didn’t do anything wrong! They didn’t do anything right. They either lied to this Judge or this Judge needs to relearn the meaning of probable cause.

  12. #12 |  Against Stupidity | 

    State governments need to create penalties for police who serve bogus no-knock warrants. If there is an error of any kind that makes the warrant wrong. The Officer in charge should get a suspension without pay. Don’t leave it to department policy, make it a statutory requirement for this type of warrant. If they felt they could potentially lose a week or two of pay, I think a lot less mistakes would be made.

  13. #13 |  Andrew Williams | 

    That’s why I don’t let ANY workmen in unless a) they have an appointment b) I know them personally and c) There’s at least one person there. Never, ever, EVER have contractors come over without you being there.

  14. #14 |  akromper | 

    I’m going to check to see if anyone has tried to deputize the local girl scouts. They get to go EVERYWHERE!!

  15. #15 |  Zeb | 

    The company the man worked for should be ashamed. If I were in charge of sending workers to people’s houses, I would make it clear to that you mind your own damn business when in other people’s houses, working for them. Anything not related to the work you are doing or your own personal safety, you ignore.

  16. #16 |  skeppie | 

    #6 | Vermin Kol | April 29th, 2008 at 11:17 am

    I guess these police never heard of a “knock and talk”. If they would’ve just done that it woull#6 | Vermin Kol | April 29th, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Knock and TALK? Talk?! Meth or no meth, for all the cops knew, the dude could have been keeping electric eels in that tank. They could have been tas-eeled for cripes sake! Think man! Think!

  17. #17 |  Observant Bystander | 

    “People need to learn when you go to the police, you must never under any circumstance embellish or exaggerate anything you witnessed, especially if that’s what the police want.”

    What happens when people start wondering whether they can go to the police at all, even if they stick to the facts? If the police are known to be reckless and abusive, then people will be less likely to call them, even when they probably should. Meth labs are dangerous (since the law forces them underground), but calling the cops even when there are grounds for concern may get innocent people killed.

  18. #18 |  FP | 

    Haha, “tas-eeled”. Dude, like don’t “eel me” bro.

  19. #19 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The cops don’t have an interest in avoiding mistakes. They will jump at any chance to use their storm trooper tactics, especially when the risk to themselves is minimal. In other words, the reason they don’t require more evidence before conducting a raid is because they’re really afraid there isn’t any. Not only do they enjoy the raids and potential property seizures, but they need a lot of them to justify the existence of the team.

    The mistakes don’t matter to them because there are no significant consequences. All they need is for some internal review committee to declare that they followed proper procedure or, if someone is killed, promise to review their policies. Elected officials aren’t going to do anything because they don’t want to antagonize the police, who as we all know, are selfless heroes who gallantly shield the citizens against total criminal anarchy.

  20. #20 |  Max Deployment | 

    “And the next thing I know, a police officer is trying to get me out bed,” she said.

    I guess that beats the alternative.

    There’s also a distinct possibility that the contractor saw the stuff, got excited, and LIED to the police about being dizzy.

    @Kevin: I love “Breaking Bad”!

  21. #21 |  Adventures in Drug War Incompetence - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine | 

    [...] living organisms that have triggered mistaken drug raids here the U.S. of A: tomatoes, sunflowers, fish, tomatoes again, elderberry bushes, kenaf plants, tomatoes again, hibiscus, ragweed, and . . . [...]

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