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Friday, Jul. 18, 2003 at 8:24 AM
This illustrates why you do not want unlimited power in the hands of Police Agencies. This shows why such laws as tha "Patriot" Act are bad law.
BATF raided my dad's house
They had the wrong Jerry Thompson
by Jerianne July 17, 2003
Here's my Mom's email:
Approximately 6:05 AM the sheriff's department and about 6-10 BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] officers handcuffed Dad, said he was under arrest, set him on the swing and began to search the house. I was sitting outside in my nightgown, was not allowed to enter the house. I was watched and guarded by the sheriff deputy or one of the BATF guys at all times. We told them there was an attic and the shed out back. They were looking for guns. Dad told them the only gun we had was in the gun cabinet. They then took Dad inside to talk to him, they read him his rights, he waived them and signed a paper. They also videotaped the house and where they searched. All I could think of was my underwear lying all over the floor.
There was a gun sold to a felon from a Jerry Thompson (my dad's name) at a flea market. At 7:05 they finally listened to Dad telling them there are at least two other Jerry Thompsons in town. They looked in the phone book and came to the conclusion they had the wrong Jerry Thompson. They apologized and left.
At least they did not do what they show on TV. They did not bust the door down or dump out boxes or throw things out of drawers and closets. I could not even tell they looked anywhere. And you know how I have boxes everywhere.
I wrote her back and asked for more specifics. She said that they were waiting outside and nabbed Dad as he walked to his truck, to leave for work. They handcuffed him, then showed him the search warrant. They got mom up and made her wait outside while they did the search. She said one of the investigators told her that as long as he's been working there has been only one other time that they've had this sort of situation — arresting the wrong person.
I don't know anything else about what led them to the conclusion that my dad was the guy they were looking for... The only conclusion I can come to, based on nothing but the description of the scene and my own bias, is very shoddy investigative work.
I told her that she should call the local newspaper and tell them about this. They did contact the local paper — but only to get them to put a clarification in the article that the man actually charged was not my dad. I thought they might be a little reluctant to actually push for a story, which is why I emailed the editor of their hometown paper and told him about the whole thing. I didn't get any response, though.
The next day I found out that the false arrest was part of this bigger sting operation, when I saw the AP wire story and the article they printed in the Commercial Appeal (Memphis).
... Nine men were charged with selling firearms to felons or filing false records on firearm sales. About 500 firearms were seized during the investigation, which involved the BATF and Memphis/Shelby County law enforcement, and assistance from other regional law enforcement. Seven men were from West Tennessee (including a police officer from Memphis), one was from the Nashville area, and one was from Mississippi.
"This is 500 guns that will not wind up in the hands of criminals to use to rob or shoot or murder citizens of Memphis or anywhere else in the Western District of Tennessee," boasted US Atty. Terry Harris [using very poor grammar] at a press conference in Memphis on Wednesday. The investigation involved undercover agents buying guns from these men at the Mid-South Fairgrounds or the Agricenter in Memphis. ...
The charges carry 5- to 10-year prison terms and 0,000 fines. My dad is damn lucky he was able to quickly convince investigators of their error.
One of the people I had initially told the story to was a friend of mine who works as an assistant editor at The Jackson Sun (a bigger paper than my parents' hometown paper in West Tennessee). Union City isn't really in their coverage area, which is why they didn't move on the story immediately, but when the story hit the wire that it was this big operation, including the arrest of a guy in Camden (which is in their coverage area), he said he'd push for the Sun to do a story — which came out about a week later. (Guess it does pay to have friends in journalism, eh?)
The Sun's article included comments from a bureau spokesman:
"It did happen. Agents went to Jerry Thompson's house, and did detain him," said BATF Special Agent Mark Leiser of Nashville. "They searched and videotaped the house. Over the course of time, Thompson convinced them there were several Jerry Thompsons in the area."
"We are looking into why the wrong house was selected," Leiser said. "It remains under investigation. We're trying to find out why it happened so it won't happen again.
"We apologized then and we apologize now," Leiser said. "We made a mistake."
I've been pissed about the whole thing. I mean, it just blows my mind. Not that I expect the federal government to get anything right, but most people generally hope they could perform a higher quality of investigation than your average small town thumb-up-his-ass sheriff.
You'd think such an intensive investigation would include a certain amount of fact-finding. And yet, they put a warrant out for the wrong man, who had nothing in common with the suspect — other than his first and last name, common names at that. And I'm wondering if anything actually is going to come from the BATF's internal investigation. (Not that I expect it.)
I'll let you know if I hear anything else about it all...
© 2003, by the author.
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