John Collins, who lives in one unit of a triplex home at 114 Benedict Ave., contends deputies got the wrong address when they executed the search warrant. The warrant was for the unit next to his, he said.
The deputies handcuffed him and left him lying on the floor in his unit for 20 minutes after they realized the mistake, Collins said.
Collins, 26, said he was watching TV when he heard someone yell, “Huron County Sheriff” outside his door.
“As soon as I stood up, they bum-rushed the door and threw me on the ground at gunpoint,” Collins said.
Read managing editor Matt Westerhold's Sunday column about the Huron County Sheriff' raid, Gag on it
They tore through his home, he said, after cuffing him and forcing him to the floor facedown.
“They searched my whole house, pulled stuff out my closet, broke a couple knick knacks” he said.
One deputy also stepped on his tablet, shattering its screen. Another broke a ceramic decoration that once belonged to his now-deceased son, Collins said.
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’” Collins said.
Two deputies must have realized the mistake, Collins said, because they recognized him from their school days and had to have known he was not the man identified in the search warrant. The deputies went next door, he said. They made contact with the residents there — who were later arrested for drug trafficking.
But six or so other deputies continued searching Collins’ home.
“It was inhumane. I’m to the point where I’m scared and don’t want to be there by myself” Collins said.
After they’d been in his home for awhile, one deputy returned and told him he was under arrest and began reading him his rights, Collins said.
But just a short while later, they uncuffed him and apologized.
“Then they just left like it was nothing” Collins said.
Huron County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy Cardwell issued a secret gag order March 21 to seal the search warrant. The gag order is also secret, Cardwell’s court clerk said after the Register asked for a copy of the order.
And the criminal complaint that was filed with the Huron County Sheriff’s Office also is secret.
The Register learned the search warrant was gagged after Huron County Sheriff’s Capt. Ted Patrick failed to deliver on assurances he made Thursday, when he said he would follow up on the Register’s requests for the initial complaints that led to the search warrant.
Incident reports and search warrants are generally public record that cannot be withheld from release.
“You send me a records request via email and I’ll be happy to get what you need,” Patrick said Thursday.
Patrick did not respond to the email the Register then sent and, when a reporter went to the sheriff’s office Friday, the incident reports weren’t available.
Patrick, who for the past three years has routinely failed to follow the public records requirements of the Ohio Revised Code, was also unavailable.
Earlier this month, Sheriff Dane Howard agreed to have his command staff begin complying with state law. When the Register emailed requests for incident reports on four other occasions in the past few weeks, the Huron County Sheriff’s Office provided those reports the following day — the first ever such consistent occurrences in the past three years.
It’s unclear why Judge Cardwell issued the gag order on this search warrant, or why he extended that gag order to include the gag order itself.
It’s also unclear why Patrick cannot provide the incident reports. On Thursday, Patrick said what Collins contends is not accurate.
The search warrant deputies executed at his home was for the correct address, he said; the arrests next door simply occurred as a coincidence.
“We finished a search warrant at 114 1/2 Benedict Ave. Our next move then was to check on an individual who may have a warrant in close proximity,” Patrick said. “When we executed the warrant we became aware of warrants for an individual in close proximity, which was next door”
Collins was not arrested after the search warrant was executed inside his home. The residents of the neighboring unit were.
Thomas Papp, 34, and his mother, Patricia Papp, were both arrested on drug trafficking warrants, according to Huron County jail guards.