OGDEN — Drug agents broke open a door and handcuffed a staff member and a resident of an Ogden group home for the mentally disabled before realizing they were at the wrong house.
Police are apologetic and will review procedures, but the father of the 49-year-old patient who was detained briefly in the March 12 incident is annoyed by the dangerous mistake.
“It’s a good thing nobody got shot,” said David Olson of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who found out about it the next day when he spoke to his son via video chat.
“We had a breakdown in pre-surveillance,” said Lt. Chris Kovalsky, commander of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force. “It’s highly uncommon for us. We’ll look at our procedures.”
Agents broke open the door of the house in the 2100 block of Custer Avenue and called on the occupants to come out.
“We don’t go in anymore,” Kovalsky said. “We rarely do a dynamic entry.”
Per policy, agents put the people in handcuffs and back them away from the house, he said.
“In this case, we came across a lady who claimed she was a caregiver,” Kovalsky said. “The next person out was obviously mentally handicapped and we stopped the operation at that point and tried to dust them off.”
Another client was still asleep in the house.
He said police talked to the operator of the group home, North Eastern Services, about the incident and sent a contractor the next day to repair the door casing.
Efforts to contact the company’s Ogden manager and its CEO were unsuccessful.
Seven years ago, the Ogden Police Department updated its search warrant service procedures after officers entered the wrong housing looking for a fugitive, instead finding a sleeping young family.
“Based on the recent police report on the mistaken-identity incident, we will make changes to our arrest warrant policy and procedure, ensuring officers are making use of available resources and verifying addresses on arrest warrants,” Mayor Mike Caldwell said after an investigation into that January 2013 incident.
A year before, a Narcotics Strike Force search warrant service at the Ogden home of a suspected marijuana grower resulted in the shooting death of one agent and the wounding of several others.
The suspect, Matthew David Stewart, was wounded in the shootout and charged with murder. He died of suicide in the Weber County Jail while awaiting trial.
Olson said in a phone interview from his home in Colorado that his son functions at the level of a 12- or 13-year-old.
“He’s been in trouble with the police before, walking along I-15 and walking out of a convenience store with a bag of sunflower seeds,” Olson said.
The group home has done wonders for the man, who graduated from Bonneville High School but struggles with numbers and has not been able to maintain employment, Olson said.
“It’s a nice, safe environment — somebody to make sure he gets the right number of meals a day and takes his meds. He’s not locked down.”
Olson said he did not want his son’s full name to be used in this story.
Olson, a retired Air Force security forces officer, said his son’s always had an affinity for police.
“He’s OK,” Olson said. “He’ll be fine. He’s happy as a pig in a sty.”
His son once made him a poster saying “A policeman is your friend.”
“He’s always happy to make friends with police,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re just talking to him or arresting him. It’s fascinating for him to be involved with the cops.”
In their video chat, Olson said he son showed him “all this swag” he received from the agents, including a uniform shirt with strike force patches, a gang unit hat and a couple of challenge coins.
Kovalsky said the underlying drug investigation that resulted in the aborted warrant service remains in progress.
Olson said he’s glad no deep harm was done.
“I was a cop for a long time, and just the idea of getting the wrong address really bugged me,” he said.