In the early morning hours of July 22, 2016, members of the Fountain, Colorado SWAT team raided the home of Eli Olivas and his girlfriend, Marisela Chavez. They had a search warrant signed by a judge and were looking for marijuana, firearms and ammunition.
Olivas, a former Special Forces Infantryman who was also a medic and received numerous decorations for his service conduct, is a legally registered medical marijuana patient. Under Colorado law, he is allowed to grow up to 99 plants. Police seized only 18 plants, which were grown in a greenhouse behind a 6-foot tall locked privacy fence. Law enforcement also found several weapons.
Now, Olivas and his attorney are asking for those weapons back as well over $100,000 in damages in a lawsuit filed earlier this month. Not only does Olivas feel he was wronged by the raid, but also by the treatment he received from law enforcement, which includes leaving Olivas and his girlfriend sitting, handcuffed, on the ground just a few feet from the exhaust pipe of a running police car.
But that’s not all; Olivas also suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his years in combat.
“The unconscionable aggression of the police would have traumatized any person, but given plaintiff Olivas’ history serving his country in combat, it affected him exponentially more severely and it has caused a relapse of his PTSD symptoms,” the lawsuit says.
Police also destroyed Olivas’ gate and left his girlfriend in a nightgown, as well as further exacerbating a shoulder injury she suffered from when they left her in handcuffs. According to the lawsuit, there was no evidence she had committed a crime whatsoever.
One can easily imagine all of the things that could have gone wrong in what looks like an unnecessary raid: Olivas had various firearms and the training to use them; this could have resulted in multiple injuries and/or deaths. All to bust a decorated combat veteran who was growing well below the legal limit of plants in a locked, enclosed space.
“At the end of the day he was safe, the public was safe and we were safe,” Fountain Police Chief Chris Heberer said of the raid. A rather nice way of saying “no one died this time.”
And when you think about it, who were those plants hurting? What threat did those 18 plants pose to society? Who is safer now that those plants are gone?