SLO Sheriff’s war on drugs spreads collateral damage

December 17, 2013

dead11By 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.

 


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Cindy

As outrageous as this is, my first thought is that at least they were honest enough not to plant something. I actually knew a person who a couple of dirty LEO planted drugs on (after they didn’t find any). It happened down in LA about 15 years ago. The poor guy had a nervous breakdown over it because it left him so helpless and unable to defend himself or prove otherwise. He really did have a nervous breakdown and had to quit his job, poor guy, he was a gentle sensitive soul, always had been.


To an extent, we do have to trust our LEO to be honest and while they obviously made a BIG MISTAKE, at least they were honest and admitted that they didn’t find anything. They had bad information and they’re behavior was over the top but like I said, if they were truly malicious or unwilling to admit the mistake, they could have made things worse.


Did they really shut off the refrigerators? WT_? Could that have been done by accident? Maybe they thought it was a light switch? When that switch is flipped to off, can a person hear the refrigeration shutting down? Either way, they owe him for his loss and I truly feel sorry for this family, mistakes happen. I’m certain that whoever the phony informant was is in big trouble.


bobfromsanluis

Cindy; I agree with everything you wrote, except for the last sentence; I’ll wager that the informant will not only NOT be in big trouble, but will most likely profit in some manner for providing the information in the form of a reduced sentence if he or she is involved in the trafficking, or if they are in law enforcement, they will most likely receive a promotion. When mistakes like this are made, usually no one “pays” for it, other than the taxpayers.


oneofadozen

The Narcotics Task Force isn’t in the game to leave drugs behind. It’s not because the are honest. It’s because they use the cannabis themselves and don’t want to give their stash away. After many meetings with the Doobie Dozen, I learned one thing was consistent with all the people that were arrested. The amount of cannabis that was on the arrest reports was always less than the amount that was actually confiscated. In my case 3 ounces of my best strain for pain never made it onto the arrest report. I knew exactly how much cannabis I had. Where did all those meds go? They didn’t get lost in the evidence room, they never made it that far. I’m fairly certain meds were stolen from the evidence room as well. After all, Cory Pierce had open access to anything he wanted that was in evidence. When I finally got my cannabis back, it was all thrown together in a couple of bags. When taken it was all in glass jars, labeled and weighed. A pound and a half was what they said they took, when I put it on the scale at home there was just over 1 pound, 1 ounce. A pinch here, a pinch there. One poster said that it’s the younger, gung ho types that are responsible for the bad behavior within the NTF. I disagree. It’s the older, pot bellied guys that were the worst offenders. They were having a blast laughing at us, not allowing us to use the restrooms, leaving us in 33 degree weather wearing shorts and tee shirts and kicking dogs. These are bad people who have no business in this type of law enforcement activity. The young guys were scared to death. Until you have had a scared sh*tless 22 year old kid holding a pistol to your head and you can feel his hand shaking against your skull you don’t know what terror is. A dozen or so of the NTF guys were at the protest at the courthouse after the raids. They hung out behind the box office at the theater across the street. I guess this was their “stealth” mode. When my son started taking their pics they scattered like rats who had the light turned on them. Not very professional behavior but when you are the law in SLO county, and what the attorney general says doesn’t mean sh*t, I guess you can do whatever you want. Ian, you need to clean house. The Cowboys are alive and well and it’s on you. They have no honor. Cory isn’t the only stain on your force. The lawsuits and claims are coming up, it’s going to get ugly when you and your boys are compelled to testify.


malcolmkyle

The U.S. comprises 5 percent of the world’s population yet uses 60 percent of the world’s drugs. The failed attempt to prohibit these (non-patentable) drugs has been waged for 70 years and has cost us trillions of dollars.


Prohibition has negatively impacted on the lives of all of us. It has stagnated the normal economy while allowing criminal enterprises to control an untaxed and thriving underground market that’s estimated to be worth (annually) well over three trillion dollars ( $300,000,000,000). By its emphasis on the eradication of marijuana we have also denied ourselves the miracle of hemp, which can offer us workable and logical solutions to a number of our society’s problems, be they medicinal, industrial or agricultural.


Truth Hurts

Fun Fact# most times on drug related search warrants they use dogs..Dogs are a great tool and can detect the smallest amount of odor of drugs. It is common pratice to turn off all fans,AC,heating, and close the windows of the building that you are searching or the car that is to be searched. The fans or open windows can alter or change the path of the air in the the building making it harder for the dog to do it’s job. Maybe thats why the refer unit was turned off. something to think about…now like always give me the thumbs down since I gave some insight to LE :)


CitizenB

I do scent detection with my dogs, and have trained with both bomb and drug detection handlers. Yes, anything that moves air can alter the scent cone and make it a little harder, but I have worked with my dogs in rooms with fans, HVAC, windows open, and outdoors in high winds, and frankly air movement actually can help an experienced dog. As one handler told me once, you work with the conditions you have. And even if they were concerned about the air movement costing their search some time, they certainly didn’t have to LEAVE the refrigerators off when they left. That was just unprofessional.


bobfromsanluis

I know nothing about training or using drug sniffing dogs for law enforcement; I have read stories though about dogs that were not possibly trained as well as they could have been and apparently sometimes those dogs will react as if they have found something when it is really just a reaction to the handler giving the dog an unseen “cue”, so the dog reacts, falsely. That occurrence has nothing to do with this story though; if everything you wrote is completely accurate, why did the refrigeration not get turned back on? If it was a simple oversight, the Sheriff’s Department should reimburse Mr. Jimenez for the cost of his lost product as soon as it is humanly possible, no undue paper shuffling or red tape, just cut him a check for his loss. IF the refrigeration was left off for spite, if the officers felt leaving them off was “no big deal”, if they thought they needed to “punish” him, the Sheriff’s Department will stand their ground and hopefully get sued for their malicious behavior.


SuperDave

To insult Ian Parkinson for the actions of the raid crew is a technical stretch. Having served warrants, and searched untold numbers of dwellings, I can tell you the story of the refrigerators. Every group of officers has one person who feels he or she needs to “Teach a lesson to others”. Whether it is the humiliation of the suspect in front of his posse, or turning off the restaurant equipment, it was meant to be a message for all others to take note of. “You come into our County, we’ll beat you down” is the habitual message. When young gung-ho deputies volunteer for this duty, the supervisor must be made aware of the misconduct. Now, he’ll never hear it from his staff, but an attorney may allege it soon. This then is dismissed as lies, attorney posturing, etc. This has been going on for generations, and most likely will never change. The best part is the person that did switch off the units thought he was doing the whole County a favor. Message sent, tax payers and Department reputation take a back seat…


MaryMalone

QUOTING SUPERDAVE: “To insult Ian Parkinson for the actions of the raid crew is a technical stretch.”


———–


My midwestern mother had many sayings which were very irritating when I was growing up but, as I have aged, I realize how brilliant she was.


Here is one she liked to use in her political activism work: “The fish rots from the head first.”


The attitude and actions of the leader greatly influence subordinates. If the officers had the idea that JBT tactics would be met with censure from the top, they would not have done it.


MikeB

Ref obispan post below


Not sure how to respond to this article as I need more information. Perhaps the affidavit submitted to the judge would clarify some things.


But I will say this in response to you obispan. I maintain that Parkinson, who cheated on a past promotional process does not inspire my confidence.


And as to your comments about James Gardiner, he was a terrible manager I feel that some of the problems SLOPD faces today can be traced to his failed management style.


If you really want to get a flavor for his behavior, post SLOPD, check out the fiasco he was involved with the City of Burbank who lost a huge court case against one of their high ranking police managers who tried to blow the whistle on corruption.


Here are some links …


http://semichorus.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/looks-like-the-only-cover-up-at-the-bpd-was-the-one-in-which-gardiner-participated-with-management/


http://burbank.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1616&meta_id=81403


http://pisworldwide.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/the-undecided-good-cop-or-bad-cop-investigators-170000-paid-report-says-bad/


Black_Copter_Pilot

Red herring alert!


obispan

Checked out the links, didn’t see anything. And Gardiner is responsible for SLOPD’s international drug-running and extortionist cops years after he retired?


Citizen

Anyone running a legitimate business (and not dealing in drugs or money laundering and not having drug cartel money invested in his business), would not hire employees connected to drug cartels.


The key is whether or not these arrested employees are involved with drug distribution for a cartel.


MaryMalone

QUOTING CITIZEN: “The key is whether or not these arrested employees are involved with drug distribution for a cartel.”


——-


You are speaking about arrested LEO employees, right?


danika

Those very same LEOs allowed the drug cartels to take root and grow in this county.


Black_Copter_Pilot

Karen

Should you be held responsible for all the uninsured drives, just because you haven’t sold them a policy?


MaryMalone

INDEED…they allowed them to take root and grow in their own LEO organization.


Scarlet

To all who are associating Dia de los Muertos statues with drug cartels:


If a crucifix or rosary are found in a mob bust, do you indite all Catholics?


OnTheOtherHand

While it isn’t definitive proof of involvement in drug cartels, the Santa Muerte statues are mostly associated with them from what I have heard. (It is almost as sure a sign as the presence of a bong is that someone is smoking pot.) That is why I am not totally buying denials by the Jimenez’s.


However, I continue to be disgusted at the para-military tactics and overbearing actions of those conducting the raids. I can understand that they might initially worry about the possibility of danger if they believe that the suspect is involved in a drug cartel but they need to be trained to back off and behave in a civilized manner once the possibility of danger is gone. There is no good reason for the continued brutality in this case and no good reason for any overwhelming use of force in most marijuana busts. The cops involved appear to be little more than legalized thugs when they can’t operate in any mode but full-on assault.


bobfromsanluis

” … from what I have heard. ” Oh goody, some real facts have made it into the discussion.


Latin America (Central and South America) is mostly Catholic; does that mean that all Latin American Catholics are members of a drug cartel as well? Sheesh.


Dave

Karen Velie will discuss this story today (Tuesday) at 3:05 p.m. on News/Talk 920 KVEC.


No_More_Anger

Who is coming from the Sheriff Office to take questions?