Meth war claims a couple of innocent victims

In any war there are innocent victims.

Take Carson City residents Katrina Noah and Jay Malone, for example. It appears they were the latest innocent victims in this ongoing war on drugs.

Last Wednesday morning Katrina and Jay were sleeping when law enforcement agents bashed down the door on their Long Street apartment. Guns and flashlights drawn, the agents then ran down the hall and jumped 20-year-old Katrina and her 24-year-old boyfriend Jay.

"They basically raided the house with guns and pulled us out of bed," Katrina told our reporter. "They handcuffed us and wouldn't say anything."

The young woman said she was half naked and that it wasn't until she asked three or four times that she was uncuffed and allowed to put on a top.

Soon after that, the agents learned that they had broken down the wrong door and had handcuffed the wrong people.

The suspect they were after actually lived in an apartment across the way.

"We just got it wrong," said David Hosmer, deputy chief at the Nevada Division of Investigation. "We have a responsibility to make sure we go to the right place and we didn't."

To their credit, the agents also made it to some right places during the early-morning raid that resulted in the arrests of 22 people suspected of selling, making or using methamphetamines.

If you haven't noticed, "meth," as it's sometimes referred to, has a death grip on Carson City and other rural towns throughout the U.S.

What makes meth so popular is that it's relatively inexpensive and makes you do things you never dreamed possible, like breaking into cars, stealing from your family, losing your teeth, losing 100 of your 150 pounds, losing all your money, or abusing your children.

You know, fun stuff like that.

The raids were supposedly a result of months of investigation with roots in Montana.

Before the agents left the wrong Long Street apartment, they apologized to Katrina and Jay and offered to get the door fixed.

That's the one that got me. I'm not certain an apology and a door repair really do the trick in this case. Seems to me there ought to be more involved when you've had your Fourth Amendment rights bashed in because months of investigation failed to include a correct address.

I'm all for getting the drugs off the streets, mind you. But I'm not willing to do that by trampling the doctrine that keeps us relatively civilized.

And I'm particularly fond of the Fourth Amendment. It pretty much states that the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated..."

Emphasis on the term "violated," which Katrina and Jay certainly seem to have been. Anyone who has ever had their home invaded will tell you that "violated" is an accurate description.

The early-morning raid on a wrong address could easily have resulted in something far more serious than a broken door.

If you've been selling or using meth and a bunch of guys with guns come crashing through your door in the early morning hours yelling "Police, Police, Police," you'd probably assume that it could be the cops.

On the other hand, if you're a law-abiding citizen asleep in your bed with your wife, two kids in the room down the hall and an old, fat dog in the garage, you're probably thinking much worse.

You might be thinking of reaching for your gun, for example.

You see, when our forefathers drafted this thing we call our Constitution they had little but English law to call upon. To that end, the maxim, "every man's house is his castle" was celebrated throughout England. It recognized the right of the homeowner to defend his house against unlawful entry. Even when that entry is being made by law enforcement officials.

Lord Camden stated that, "by the laws of England, every invasion of private property, be it ever so minute, is a trespass. No man can set foot upon my ground without my license but he is liable to an action though the damages be nothing..."

Unfortunately, the well trained agents would probably have blown me and my wife away before I had a chance to raise my pistol. I can't operate a toothbrush, let alone a 9mm Glock, without my first cup of coffee.

The mistake, then, would have cost much more than a door.

To his credit, Deputy Chief David Hosmer is what some refer to as a "stand-up guy." He didn't make any excuses for the mistake. He told me that an investigation is still under way to determine what went wrong and how to make sure it never happens again.

But he also realizes that this is a war and that warfare is imperfect. Society demands clean streets, but often fails to provide the resources or tools needed to do its dirty work.

I assume lawyers will eventually sort out the constitutional issues surrounding this wrong home raid. And in the end, there will probably be more at stake than a broken door.

Hopefully, the men and women we have asked to rid our towns of this horrible thing called "meth" will learn from this mistake by first understanding it was no small mistake.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.

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