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Gag on it

Matt Westerhold • Nov 23, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard's chief deputy plays the Ohio Revised Code -- the compilation of state laws they're sworn to uphold -- fast and loose.

It's been that way since Howard was elected in 2012.

Sheriff's Capt. Ted Patrick showed that again clearly last week after a raid at a triplex home on Benedict Avenue.

Patrick also showed he doesn't seem to understand the difference between a "rumor" and a complaint.

Here's how a local newspaper reported it Friday:

"Rumors about authorities using a warrant at the wrong Norwalk residence are untrue, a sheriff's spokesman said Thursday.

"'It's highly inaccurate. It's not factual,' Huron County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Ted Patrick told the Reflector.

"'We stand behind what we did. I stand behind what our men and women did," he added."

But it wasn't a "rumor" Capt. Patrick referred to; it was a complaint he hoped to ignore.

"As soon as I stood up, they bum-rushed the door and threw me on the ground at gunpoint," John Collins, 26, who lives in one of the three units at 114 Benedict Ave. in Norwalk, told the Register.

Collins had a complaint and Patrick knew that full-well.

The deputies busted in his home as he watched TV, cuffed him and forced him to the floor face down, Collins said. They left him there for 20 minutes ignoring his admonitions they had the wrong address.

Collins said he repeatedly told the deputies they had the wrong house. But they kept saying, 'This is a drug house,' and 'You shouldn't be in a drug house then.'"

"They searched my whole house, pulled stuff out my closet," he said.

The explanation Chief Deputy Patrick provided the Register when a reporter inquired about the raid just doesn't add up.

"We finished a search warrant at 114-1/2 Benedict Ave," he said Thursday. "Our next move then was to check on an individual who may have a warrant in close proximity."

Patrick said deputies "became aware of warrants for an individual in close proximity, which was next door."

He refused to say how deputies "became aware" of the arrest warrant for that individual in the unit next door to Collins' home, a warrant on file with the sheriff's office since 2012.

It must have been just a coincidentally convenient tip.

Plan B

And instead of addressing Collins' complaint in real time, Patrick went to Plan B: Operation Super-secret secret gag order secret.

* Tell a friendly reporter nothing really happened.

* Make sure there is no documentation available about anything of substance.

* As Sheriff's Howard's spokesman, make yourself as unavailable and be unfriendly as possible to any reporter who has questions about the inconsistent story you're trying to make sure the public hears.

* Make sure the judge is aware the super-secret gag order needs to be in place and the search warrant your team executed needs to be hidden for as long as possible.

After arresting two people in the unit next to Collins' home, deputies finally removed the handcuffs from his wrists and let him get up off the floor.

"Then they just left like it was nothing," Collins said.

Americans -- no matter what their past might be -- have a right to watch TV in their own homes without fear police are going to bust in, hogtie you and leave you face down on the floor for 20 minutes ignoring your concern about their actions.

Most law enforcement officers know that.

Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard needs to learn it, and he needs to teach his deputies about it and about appropriate behavior.

"It was inhumane. I'm to the point where I'm scared and don't want to be (in my home) by myself," Collins said.

Can't blame you.

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