Owner irked after raid on Arlington's 'Garden of Eden'




Posted on August 13, 2013 at 7:19 PM

Garden of Eden

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ARLINGTON — The gate at the Garden of Eden, an Arlington business that preaches a sustainable lifestyle, remains broken.

It is evidence left behind after a police raid.

"They came here under the guise that we were doing a drug trafficking, marijuana-growing operation," said owner Shellie Smith. "They destroyed everything."

An Arlington police investigator laid out her marijuana suspicions and probable cause in a search warrant It was signed by a judge on August 1.

The SWAT Team then went to the property on Mansfield Cardinal Road one day later to execute the warrant around 7:30 a.m.

They found nothing.

Quinn Eaker, who lives on the property, said eight adults inside were handcuffed and detained for hours during the operation.

"I think every single right we have was violated," he said. "Every single one."

Eaker was the only one arrested from the group. He was taken to jail for outstanding traffic violations.

The police department says it conducted the operation with dignity, professionalism and respect. Sgt. Chris Cook told News 8 the residents were handcuffed for about 30 minutes and SWAT cleared the scene in 45 minutes.

Code enforcement teams also went to the home that day with an abatement warrant. They hauled nearly 21,000 pounds of materials, including 24 tires filled with stagnant water.

According to inventory documents, some of the items seized included compost, wooden pallets, and furniture. Smith said code officials took away their food, and everything they need for a sustainable lifestyle.

"There were 15 to 20 blackberry bushes. There were sunflowers for our bees and gifting. Lots of okra, and we had a sweet potato patch that they whacked down with a Weed-Eater," Smith said. "The weeds that we used to shade our crops are also gone."

City of Arlington spokeswoman Sana Syed said the Garden of Eden has been cited for numerous violations since 2011, and that the owner refused to make changes.

"The purpose was to improve the quality of life, to resolve life safety issues within neighborhoods and to hold the property owner responsible for creating blight conditions on their property," Syed said in a written statement.

Smith was fighting the city, and admitted she did not go to a code hearing earlier this year. She told News 8 she notified the city that she was not attending, and sent officials a letter, hoping to reach an agreement.

She now vows to keep fighting back.

"We want an apology," Smith said. "This will not end here."

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

Here is the full statement issued by City of Arlington spokeswoman Sana Syed:

On February 27, 2013, Code Compliance Services issued a Nuisance Abatement Order to Shellie Smith, the property owner of record at 7325 Mansfield Cardinal Road. As detailed in the search warrant affidavit, since 2011 Code Compliance Services has received numerous complaints from residents who live in the area and are concerned about their health and safety due to the current unsanitary conditions on the property that promotes the harboring of rodents, mosquitoes and fire hazards. Moreover, the residents are concerned that the conditions interfere with the useful enjoyment of their properties and are detrimental to property values and community appearance.

The Nuisance Abatement Order was issued after an investigation was conducted, and the property owner was provided notices of violation and time to remedy the identified code violations. Ms. Smith declined to attend a Nuisance Determination Hearing she requested. City codes exist in order to protect the health and safety of the public. To date, Ms. Smith has failed to comply with the order and the nuisance conditions continue to exist on the property.

On August 2, 2013, Code Compliance Services executed an Inspection and Abatement Warrant. The warrant provided the City the authority to inspect and abate the existing nuisance conditions. Code Compliance Services removed 20,420 pounds of nuisance materials and 24 tires holding stagnant water. The purpose was to improve the quality of life, to resolve life safety issues within neighborhoods and to hold the property owner responsible for creating blight conditions on their property.

During the City’s investigation, the Arlington Police Department received a number of complaints that the same property owner was cultivating marijuana plants on the premises. On August 2, Arlington police officers executed a separate search warrant at Smith’s property on Mansfield Cardinal Road in reference to the narcotics complaints. Members of APD’s tactical unit assisted in the execution of this search warrant to secure the location so that narcotics detectives could safely enter the property. Several people on the property were initially handcuffed, as is standard procedure in narcotics investigations. Once it was safe to do so, they were un-handcuffed within 30 minutes and allowed to conduct their daily business around the property, including the opportunity to leave the premises if they so desired. In fact, a couple of residents did leave the property. No cultivated marijuana plants were located on the premises. Narcotics detectives and members of the tactical unit cleared the scene within 45 minutes.

Additional details are included in the search warrant affidavits. Please contact the City of Arlington’s Office of Communication with any additional questions.