SLO Sheriff’s war on drugs spreads collateral damage
December 17, 2013
By KAREN VELIE
Shortly after 3 a.m. on Dec. 4, a woman awoke to strange sounds outside her San Luis Obispo home and walked quietly towards the front door while her family slept. As she reached the door, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s deputies broke it down on top of her, tossed in a flash-bang explosive device and stormed into the residence.
Deputies dragged her long-term boyfriend, Carlos Jimenez, and their three year-old child into the front room and called for paramedics to check on her. Jimenez, clad only in his underwear, was placed in handcuffs. Officers attempted to amuse the child who wandered around the frigid room in his pajamas, Jimenez said.
“I asked what was going on and they told me to shut up and sit down,” Jimenez said. “They wouldn’t let us use the bathroom. It was freezing. They wouldn’t let me put on clothes or get the baby a jacket.”
While the deputies, clad in warm winter jackets, searched the home, the couple sat handcuffed on the couch until shortly after 11 a.m. when the deputies removed their handcuffs before leaving the home with the residents’ cell phones, computers, money and a Santa Muerte statue. No drugs were found and the couple was not arrested.
Across town at Jimenez’s Cinco de Mayo Restaurant, deputies seized about $2,000 in cash, credit card receipts and all restaurant documentation. Again, no drugs were found.
Even so, before leaving the restaurant, officers turned off the refrigerators, Jimenez said.
“I had to throw out about $1,500 worth of food,” Jimenez said. “This is destroying me.”
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, which spent more than 1,500 man hours coordinating the drug bust that included 13 search warrants and the arrests of 15 people, released information stating that Adrian De Martino Morales, 24, and Aldo De Martino Morales, 22, were part-owners of the Cinco de Mayo restaurant in San Luis Obispo.
“The investigation supports our belief that the subjects arrested were involved in the ownership of the restaurant,” said sheriff’s office spokesperson Tony Cipolla.
Jimenez disagrees and says that while several of the people arrested worked part-time at his restaurant, they are not owners and are not listed on any of the restaurant’s documents.
Nevertheless, after deputies announced the owner of Cinco de Mayo Restaurant was connected to the powerful Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, his business plummeted more than 50 percent.
For the past 19 years, Jimenez has worked as a waiter at local restaurants, about 15 years at Buona Tavola and the past four years at Gennaro’s Grill and Garden. During the past three years, he also worked nights at a janitorial service while he saved to buy his own restaurant.
In April, he purchased Cinco de Mayo. After he works breakfast at his restaurant, Jimenez leaves to serve lunch and dinner five days a week at Gennaro’s on Marsh Street. He then heads back to his restaurant which he closes between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. seven nights a week.
The Dec. 4, 2013 raids were not the first time suspects have questioned the tactics used by local officers serving search warrants.
During the Narcotics Task Force medical marijuana raids in December 2010, one man suffered a heart attack, guns were held to the heads of children as they were dragged from their beds, family pets were kicked, grandparents were handcuffed and forced to lie on the floor and children were removed from their parents’ custody.
All charges filed against the so-called “Doobie Dozen” were later dismissed by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office.
Five of the 12 medical marijuana collective operators arrested in the controversial sweep filed a civil suit. The lawsuit describes the behavior of the arresting officers as “willful, wanton, malicious and oppressive.”
The plaintiffs seek an unspecified amount of damages, recovery of attorney fees, compensation for medical expenses and a declaration that law enforcement officers will not conduct “similar unlawful seizures in the future.”
Jimenez is also looking at civil remedies to procure the return of his belongings, the restaurants proceeds and for compensation for damage to his home and business.