February 23, 1995 in Nation/World

Botched Drug Raid Turns Into, Well, A Real Bust Tomato Seeds And Houseplants Found - Not Marijuana

By The Spokesman-Review

A boarded-up basement window and a vicious-looking dog outside led deputies to what they thought would be a big marijuana bust.

But all the deputies found last week were tomato seeds and a halfdozen houseplants under a growlight.

“It’s kind of ridiculous,” homeowner Ken Olds said Wednesday. “You can go your whole life living by the law; then something like this happens to you.”

Court records showing why a judge had issued the warrant to search Olds’ home were sealed for a week in violation of state law.

“I guess you could say it was just a misunderstanding by those who were just trying to do their job,” Lincoln County Sheriff Dan Berry said Wednesday.

Olds, 29, and his wife, Karen, 36, both U.S. Army veterans, say the most serious offense they’ve committed is speeding.

“My last speeding ticket was back in 1983, on Christmas Eve, in Fort Rucker, Ala.,” said Karen Olds.

District Judge Jack Buck said he couldn’t recall why he had authorized the search.

A heavily edited version of the search warrant affidavit, released Wednesday, mentioned the boardedup basement windows and an informant, apparently a juvenile.

“I know what was used for probable cause to get the search warrant, and it was legitimate,” the sheriff said.

He said Ken and Karen Olds received an apology, but they said they couldn’t remember that.

Still fuming a week later, Karen Olds went to see an attorney Wednesday afternoon.

She was at her home at 301 Maxwell in Davenport about 8 a.m. on Feb. 15 when two deputies showed up at the front door.

“We’d sealed that door with plastic because of the cold weather, so I told them to go to the back door,” she said.

The deputies said they wanted to come in the front door, and she obliged, fearing they might force their way in. She later saw two other deputies at the back door.

Her first fear, she recalled, was that her husband had been injured at work.

“When they said they had a search warrant, I said, `A search warrant for what?’ When they said it was to look for a marijuana-growing operation, I just laughed.”

A few minutes later, Ken Olds drove up. “With four cop cars around my house, I thought something awful had happened to my wife or kids,” he recalled.

Getting out of his car, Olds was greeted, he said, by a stern-looking deputy at the back door.

“He yelled at me, `Get your hands up in the air where I can see them,”’ Olds said. “Then this guy with a flakjacket and a shotgun had me spreadeagle up against my car.”

Olds and his wife were told to sit quietly at their kitchen table while deputies searched their house.

A half dozen deputies and Davenport police spent 30 minutes searching the home. They found nothing illegal.

The couple said the deputies told them the boarded-up basement windows and the “vicious” dog tied up outside had made authorities suspicious.

Ken Olds said the couple’s dog, a chow named Eddie, ran away when the deputies showed up. He later returned.

As for the window, “It’s a 1928 house, and this window leaks real bad,” he said. “That’s why it’s boarded-up.”

A piece of carpet covers another basement window.

Olds and his wife met while the two were in the Army.

They moved to the Spokane area in 1991 and bought their home in Davenport because real estate prices are lower there. They both work in Spokane, Ken Olds on a graveyard shift and his wife on a day shift.

Karen Olds said she just likes gardening and growing houseplants.

Ken Olds said that if his wife had taken to growing false azaleas, which resemble marijuana plants, “I’d probably have been taken to jail.”

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