Texas SWAT team destroys organic farm during raid
Authorities last week raided a 3.5-acre Arlington-based organic farm business called the Garden of Eden, which advocates for sustainable lifestyles. Police said they were searching for marijuana in the gardens, after photos taken of the property from a Texas Department of Public Safety manned aircraft allegedly showed plants that resemble marijuana.
When the SWAT team arrived at the farm, the six adults who live there were held at gunpoint and handcuffed. For 10 hours, SWAT officers searched the property, destroying parts of the farm in the process.
City Code Enforcement officers also showed up at the property, despite the fact that their mission is unrelated to drug enforcement. City Enforcement offices are responsible for maintaining safe and attractive neighborhoods, and residents of the Garden of Eden believe the raid was simply an excuse to allow them to change the farm’s unconventional appearance.
“They came here under the guise that we were doing a drug trafficking, marijuana growing operation. They destroyed everything,” property owner Shellie Smith told ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.
The Garden of Eden had recently been cited for code violations, including “grass that was too tall, bushes growing too close to the street, a couch and piano in the yard, chopped wood that was not properly stacked, a piece of siding that was missing from the side of the house and generally unclean premises,” Smith said in a statement.
While the SWAT team was searching for drugs, code compliance officers mowed the grass and removed wild, cultivated plants and equipment, which Smith said was a shock to everyone who lived on the farm. Arlington police claim that the operation lasted only 45 minutes, but residents of the Garden of Eden continue to insist that it took 10 hours.
“We had mass amounts of materials taken,” Quinn Eaker, a 30-year-old resident of the farm, told NBC. “If you saw the list, it’s pages and pages of materials taken. That wasn’t junk. That wasn’t trash.”
The police seized and destroyed 17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants and sunflowers. Eaker believes that when police looked at surveillance photos of the farm, they mistakenly identified tomato plants as marijuana plants.
“They can’t even tell the difference between tomato plants and a marijuana drug cartel; that’s just really bad intel,” Eaker said.
Police found no drugs or criminal wrongdoing on the property, but they arrested Eaker on an unrelated warrant for an outstanding unpaid parking ticket.
Residents of the organic farm are demanding an apology. They claim they have never done anything wrong, and remain upset about the damages to their farm.
“We’ve never hurt anybody. This is our land,” Eaker told KXAS-TV. “We have the right to be secure in our person and our property. Period. That’s undebatable.”