Weeds but no weed: Arlington police raid on ‘sustainable living’ home nets no drugs

Posted Monday, Aug. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Arlington’s SWAT team recently raided a “sustainable lifestyle” area in southwest Arlington known as Garden of Eden, looking for drugs on land where residents say their goal is to use as few modern amenities as possible in their daily lives.

But instead of finding weed, the authorities during their Aug. 2 raid mostly just found weeds on the property, which is located in the 7300 block of Mansfield Cardinal Road.

“They held us at gunpoint for multiple hours without giving us access to our cameras,” said Quinn Eaker, one of eight adults detained. They live at the residence with several children.

Eaker said the group, which believes in a sustainable lifestyle, has a dispute with the city over the property maintenance following complaints from other area residents about the land’s condition.

Arlington police said they went to the home because they had reason to believe marijuana was being grown there, even though none was found, Arlington agency spokesman Sgt. Christopher Cook said. He also defended the procedures police used during the raid.

Cook said the adults were only handcuffed for about 20 to 30 minutes, as a precaution while the search was being conducted.

“When we executed the search warrant and used members of the SWAT team, that’s standard,” Cook said. “We use them to assist us to make sure everyone’s safe and no one gets hurt.”

“They were unhandcuffed and allowed to conduct their daily business,” Cook said. “They were allowed to water their vegetables. Some asked if they were free to leave, and we said yes.”

Residents at the Garden of Eden believe in a sustainable lifestyle that includes using as little electricity as possible, growing their own food and using composting toilets to fertilize the land. But members also use some modern conveniences, including laptop computers and phones.

In February, Arlington’s code enforcement staff issued a nuisance abatement order to the owner of the property, Shellie Smith, after area residents complained about what they described as unsanitary conditions on the land.

“We have been interacting with them [city officials] for months. We have been doing this all very lawfully,” said Eaker, 30, who has lived at the Garden of Eden for several years. “We have been challenging their authority for eight months.

“You don’t get to tell us how to live our lives. We don’t wake up to an alarm clock. We don’t get into traffic and go to an office. We don’t go to a doctor. We are free,” he said.

Besides being handcuffed and held at gunpoint, Eaker also alleged that the authorities used unmanned drone vehicles before the raid to investigate the property. Group members spelled out their complaints in a news release on the group’s website titled “No Weed, Just Weeds.”

Cook said Arlington police did not use drones. But about three days before the raid, police, aided by a Texas Department of Public Safety officer, conducted a manned aircraft flight more than 400 feet over the property, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The DPS official identified what he believed to be a 30-foot-by-30-foot area of what appeared to be marijuana plants growing between a pool and the main residential structure on the property, according to the affidavit.

During the raid, the city’s code compliance office executed a warrant of its own — separate from the police warrant — and “removed 20,420 pounds of nuisance materials and 24 tires holding stagnant water,” city spokeswoman Sana Syed said.

The materials removed from the property also included compost, carpeting, tree limbs and cardboard, according to an inventory of abated property provided by the city.

“The residents are concerned that the conditions interfere with the useful enjoyment of their properties and are detrimental to property values and community appearance,” Syed said in an email

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson

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