HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Wrong House Raided As Marijuana Grow-op
Pubdate: Mon, 21 Jun 2004
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Province
Author: Elaine O'Connor, The Province


Whalley Man Spends Father's Day Cleaning Up Damage Done By RCMP

Like most dads, Whalley resident Efren Ramirez was looking forward to 
spending Father's Day with his children.

Instead, the father-of-two was busy yesterday repairing the damage done 
when Surrey RCMP broke down his doors after mistaking his home for a 
marijuana grow operation.

"I'm disappointed," said Ramirez, who has lived with his wife, children and 
elderly mother-in-law in a two-storey house on [address deleted] for more 
than a year. "They got the wrong information."

"It's not a great Father's Day gift for him," said Ramirez's wife Rosemarie.

The family returned home from a relative's birthday party in Vancouver at 
about 9 p.m. Saturday to find police waiting in the driveway. Ramirez 
thought they'd been robbed.

Instead, police served him a search warrant and an apology. They had broken 
down four doors of the house to look for evidence while the family was out.

A neighbour across the street captured the raid on a digital video camera. 
The video showed officers walking around the property and then breaking in 
the front door, yelling, "Police, search warrant!" Two unmarked vehicles 
and a large cargo truck were parked nearby.

Ramirez's copy of the search warrant showed his property was investigated 
for "possession of a controlled substance."

The warrant was signed by Const. Jason Flynn of Surrey's drug section, who 
could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Tim Shields said it was "extremely rare" for his 
detachment to execute a drug raid at the wrong house.

"In the RCMP, we pride ourselves on thorough and meticulous drug 
investigations and this is extremely rare," Shields said. "It's an incident 
that I've never seen before."

Shields said RCMP are conducting an internal review of what went wrong.

Police received a complaint from the elementary school behind the Ramirez's 
property of a strong smell of marijuana, Shields said.

Ramirez suggested the composter in his back-yard vegetable garden could 
have given off a musty smell that a neighbour confused with pot.

 From the street, the Ramirez house looks nothing like a typical rundown 
grow-op. Children's toys are scattered on the front lawn amid a well-tended 
flower garden, and there are wind chimes and planters at the front door.

More likely, the police got the wrong address. A neighbouring house was 
shuttered tight against the sun yesterday. The yard was overgrown, there 
were no cars in the driveway and a large wasp's nest blocked all 
garage-door access. At the side of the house, the hydro meter whirred.

Ramirez said he occasionally saw a man drive up and go in at night, but 
otherwise the neighbouring house seemed empty.

Shields said the police now know which house contained the grow-op and 
would soon act appropriately.

Police have assured Ramirez, who works two jobs as an electronics assembly 
worker and hospital housekeeper, that they would cover all repair costs.
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