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SWAT Team Deployed Again–For Minor Drug Arrest on Palm Coast’s Pine Grove Drive

| September 26, 2013

The house at 129 Pine Grove Thursday afternoon. (© FlaglerLive)

The house at 129 Pine Grove Thursday afternoon. (© FlaglerLive)

For the second time in four days, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday deployed its SWAT team to serve a search warrant connected to a suspect then charged with drug offenses, executing out a sudden entry into a home and the detention of innocent residents, including children.

On Saturday, the SWAT team entered 6 Raeitan Way in Palm Coast and detained five people as the search was conducted, leading to the arrest of Michael Marsh on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine. Marsh almost immediately bonded out. A 9 a.m. Wednesday, the SWAT team made entry into the house at 129 Pine Grove Drive in Palm Coast “and made the residence safe,” according to a police report, while detaining two young children and a middle-aged woman outside, and the children’s parents inside.

John L. Johnson, 32, was arrested on minor charges of possessing cocaine, marijuana (under 20 grams), oxycodone and drug paraphernalia. He posted $11,000 bond and was released. The house is a few doors down from the residence of a sheriff’s deputy.

Asked why the SWAT team was used to serve the search warrant, Cmdr. Bob Weber, the sheriff’s chief spokesman, said: “They do an assessment based on the person’s criminal history, and whether there might be a threat based on that matrix that they use. That lets them know whether they should use a full team deployment or a what they refer to as a mini team.”

A full team was used in both the Raeitan Way and the Pine Grove cases.

Johnson does not have a violent history, nor a long arrest history. He served a 19-month prison term, from March 21, 2003 to Oct. 23, 2004, for marijuana and cocaine possession and sale. And in May, he was arrested in Flagler on a marijuana possession charge, with intent to distribute, and was released on $2,500 bond. A possible plea is in the works on that charge in an October 7 hearing before Circuit Judge J. David Walsh.

Describing the SWAT team’s method when serving a warrant, Weber said, “usually they’ll approach the door, they’ll announce themselves, at that point they’ll make entry.” The team does not usually wait for the door to open before going in, busting the door. “Usually with that warrant they have a right to go in right away. And that’s for officer safety purposes as well as for the potential destruction of evidence,” Weber said.

The spokesman said there’s no question that there are instances when occupants of the house, including children, may be frightened by the SWAT team’s appearance—the team members are heavily clad in body armor , masks and assault weapons—but at the same time, he said, if there’s illegal activity in the house, “that’s equally endangering to the children.”

John Johnson

John Johnson

Yet in many cases the suspect arrested following such entries is not so dangerous as to not be released the same day, and allowed to return to the same house, as was Johnson. “That’s a situation that’s not up to us,” Weber said. “If it’s a situation where they’re entitled to bond, it’s up to the court system whether they want to hold an individual or whether they want to release them on bond or on ROR” (or released on the suspect’s own recognizance).

Asked why Johnson was not arrested outside the house to avoid the disruption or fright to other individuals, Weber said the warrant was for a search, not an arrest, and that the arrest followed what the search turned up.

An investigator found five Oxycodone pills, two bottles of Hydrocodone (oral solution), a grinder, a hand-rolled cigar containing marijuana, and “a large piece of crack cocaine,” according to the arrest report.

Thursday afternoon a car without a license plate was parked in the driveway of the house on Pine Grove. Two wrapped newspapers hadn’t yet been picked up from the driveway, nor an empty garbage bin returned to the side of the house. The white front door had scruff marks on it. The ringing of the doorbell triggered a loud response from at least two dogs inside. A middle aged woman the n appeared at the door, which she did not open, speaking only briefly through the glass pane at the side of the door. She declined herself to speak with a reporter, and said Johnson would not talk either.

It isn’t clear if children were in the house Thursday afternoon. “It is disturbing to me that these children were living in this home and may have been exposed to the dangers often associated with illegal narcotics use and possession,” Sheriff Jim Manfre said in a news release summarizing the arrest. “Our investigators have contacted the Department of Children and Families and advised them of the situation and we have asked them to conduct an investigation to ensure that the children are safe.”

SWAT teams’ sudden entries into homes can be frightening and destructive to property—which is the tenant’s responsibility to repair at his or her own cost—and at times dangerous, though locally Weber said there have been no instances of a SWAT team having to fire its weapons in any encounter.

“These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers,” Radley Balko, author of a new book on the militarization of police, wrote in a briefing paper for the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank. “These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.”

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33 Responses for “SWAT Team Deployed Again–For Minor Drug Arrest on Palm Coast’s Pine Grove Drive”

  1. Justin B. says:

    I guess they have to justify all that expensive equipment. What’s next, calling out the swat team for jaywalkers?

  2. A.S.F. says:

    A SWAT raid does sound excessive in this case but it is hard to feel sympathy for an alleged drug dealer who exposes young children to such dangers.

  3. Florida Native says:

    The word is out. Come to Palm Coast to do your drug activity.

  4. Geezer says:

    A little bit heavy-handed I think.
    Not a SWAT situation, innocents could have been killed.

    “The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.”

    Usually I have praise for the FCSO.
    Not today.

  5. anonymous says:

    Uh yeah, the suspect is such a threat we let him bond out for 11,000.00 which is really 1100.00 dollars 100 for every thousand with the help of a bondsman. Wonder how much SWATS expenses were?

  6. Anonymous says:

    No One is responsible for putting those kids and that family in danger other than the person that drew law enforcement to that house John Johnson. And if SWAT is the safest way to ensure the safety of the officers entering that location then so be it. No one is to blame for this situation other than John Johnson period!!

  7. Palm Coast says:

    Since when do we send in SWAT teams for minor drug arrests? Had someone been shot there would have been a major lawsuit against the police department.

    What next? Drone strike…

  8. Frank Diliberto says:

    Don’t you people watch the news? Don’t you understand the risk LEO takes when serving a warrant. Just last month 2 deputies were shot while serving a warrant for traffic fines!!!!! Stop this liberal crap and let’s start to protect our children,neighborhoods, and LEO .GREAT JOB FCSO!! Please keep the faith.

  9. well says:

    drones are already in affect in flagler county. everyday people’s individualism and privacy is taken away by the government. this is no longer usa. our country and county is becoming too controlling. who ever said the children were in view of the narcotics? I never read it. were the drugs in plain sight? reachable? how old were the children? many factors in this case. i’m not for or against this case, just stating the facts I have observed. and yes, raids cause major damage to houses in flagler county. including the front door, back door, and atleast 2-3 flash bang grenades thrown threw three different window while your sleeping, not knowing what or who they are throwing them at…. nice wake up huh?

  10. Tired says:

    I have to wonder about the excessive force simply because we have friends that encountered this and they’ve only ever had speeding tickets in their life! About a month ago they were home with their children and the cops entered their home with guns drawn. They had a complaint called in. This is a very typical family that aside from having some crazy neighbors has never done anything that law enforcement would see as illegal or irregular. It was very traumatic for all of them, particularly the children. I don’t want drugs in our neighborhood anymore than anyone else, but please let’s use some common sense.

  11. satan.d.worldonfire says:

    This is the war on drugs at work every day. They should call it what it is. A war on american citizens and there basic civil liberties.. 50 percent of our prison population is reserved for non violent drug offenders. The drug war is a federly sanctioned money grab.we spend billions to buy assult vehichles for tiny towns with no real reason other than they can. … P.S to officer anonymos not many people seem to share your point of view

  12. Confused says:

    I don’t understand. The people of palm coast complain if the police, fire department does not get there fast enough. Or if they bring to many people to the scene, but god forbid if you or your family has a medical problem or you husband, wife, or child has a gun at there head because this drug dealer didn’t like the way they looked at him. Or maybe you cut him off in your car by mistake. Then you will complain that they did not send enough. Flagler county citizens should be happy that they are trying to make your community a safe place to live.

    How do you know that the drug dealer didn’t have multiple guns in there and was ready to fight instead of going to jail. What about the people that live close to that house. They did a great job managing the scene and making sure everyone was safe.

    Good job Flagler County S.O.

    • satan.d.worldonfire says:

      Sorry officer confused no one’s complaining abought the firemen who are largely unpaid volenteers that actually do save lives and property

    • resident says:

      Safe, REALLY? Do you really think that our county is safer now that Manfre got rid of the most highly decorated officers with the most experience………Really? REALLY? Wake up people……the current sheriff is COSTING this county dearly…..after all the current lawsuits come to fruition, we, the taxpayers are in for a real bill……not to mention the most experienced and community active LEO’s here are gone now…….REALLY? SAFER? I guess most have forgotten how Manfre left office last time. Please do your homework, residents. There should be a law that allows ONLY persons with LAW ENFORCEMENT EXPERIENCE to become sheriff, not some TORT lawyer. Think about that………….


  13. Rick says:

    “The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries…..”
    And you boneheads really wonder why over half the population of Palm Coast has a big ass forking problem with your operations? Sometime, in the very near future, pull your heads out not only to take a breath but also to take a close look at the messed up demented performances with which you so gratify yourselves.

  14. Reaganomicon says:

    So, I looked at the arrest report and nothing at all says anything about intent to distribute, which leads me to wonder why exactly a SWAT team was deployed to serve a warrant. Then I re-read the article and saw that this person lived a few doors down from a sheriff’s deputy, and I realized why.

  15. floridagirl says:

    well, my thoughts are…. guns and dope go hand an hand with man…. kinda like horses and dogs go hand an hand with man… tools of the trrade if you will… and shucks, i hate it some children were frightened by swat, and man, you know i hate spending me some money, i prefer free expensive in my house, like hand me downs an such… however, granted, they all mentioned were not labled violent offenders, however their tools of trade, release a violent effect, a very specific thing called the junkie effect… it rapes families of loved one, children, spouses, dreams, takes it all… rocks you to sleep at night, calls you from loving arms and a warm bed in the morning…. dope is a living breathing species, minuse the required dna, i say give it dea insted… why swat? why not swat? lets do some what ifs… what if those children ingested that cookie of coke, or found that pill under the couch cusion with pop corn seeds, or the lab had a unseen fire, or that tweeker touched the wrong mind that day… would you be sitting here going where were the cops! where was dcf! i assure you what is done to our children in our homes, they do to our society… and it is so cheap, for any of us to put a dollar value on any head,… cop, junkie, or child, as we are all human night and day, day and night… the only time i put a dollar value on a head, is with the livestock, its like .70 per pund on the hoof… so how do we weigh human life… each member of swat is part of a whole… a team… who answers to a administrative higharche… civil servents… give their lives, for or safty and freedom… a chosen profession… the first people i call when i am scared… the drug deals, the cooks, maybe they just do not know another way yet… maybe we will evolve to a society that will become the rock at the bottom for our people who lost their way… but to find fault, when everyone walks away safe, maybe saken, but ultimitly unharmed, what did we learn? another dope boy bites the dust… and today, no one died, and today, that junkie didnt use, and today, is the opratunity to reach those younge minds involved, to teach parents another way of life by breaking this cycle… and today, that neighborhood gets a sigh of reliefe.. and that cop who lived next door, gets to say to his family, you dont have to look at this anymore, cause i see enough for all of us at work… let them do their jobs… we dont weigh law, risk our lives, and didnt chose this profesion… nor did we vote the newest drug dealer onto our block… voting them off the island isnt an option… you can fix stupid, but you can sadate that crap for a minute, and have a look.. let them do their jobs, so i dont have to find dope bags, and syringes when im walking my grandchildren…

  16. Valhalla says:

    Good job sheriff..Congratulation to all those “tactical militarized alcoholics” you have on that SWEAT team. Way to GANG up on a human being and invade their home. “Cudo’s” to all those 30 plus other deputy dogs that hung around collecting that ” Hazardous duty pay “….Yep, you guys are hero’s of the taxpayer. And WOW, you captured a notorious “drug cartel” leader. You guys are good !!!!

  17. blondee says:

    Not sure why the FCSO would want to divulge their methods of executing a search warrant or deploying a SWAT team! It’s really none of our business. They’ve got a job to do, and got it done. Carry on!

  18. Set it strait says:

    The reason the SWAT team was used is because the Corporal in charge of the Narcotics unit is also in charge of the SWAT Team and he wants his team used as much as possible. No other reason. He gets what ever he wants including the use of his new 4×4 full size truck that is paid for by the taxpayers and other huge SUV’s that the narcotic unit drives around in all over town. We pay for their gas on duty and off. I was told one of them drives a brand new..12 miles to the gallon vehicle.

    I thought this sheriff ran for office saying he was going to stop waste…..on gas as well. He campaigned against fleming saying that he would not allow huge suv’s to be used because they waste gas. Well looks like he lied.

  19. Rocky Mac says:

    I am reading this late, but want to comment on the headline. Although it turned out to be a minor drug arrest, it very well could have been a “major” drug bust. That is the danger of apprehending drug abusers. They must have had a good reason to deploy the swat team of which we are not privy to it.

    • Reaganomicon says:

      Sorry, if there is a group of civil servants that I definitely do not give the credit of “good judgement” to it is the police.

  20. eileen says:

    I always wonder if absent landlords really know what is going on in their house. A search of that property 6 Raeitan shows it is owned by someone in California and was bought for $229,000.00 in 2006. I just find that it is a little odd. That’s a lot of money for a house, ya think?

    • Binkey says:

      I would guess that most of our “criminals” are also renters. Isn’t there quite a bit of gang activity in the Pine Grove area?

  21. Genie says:

    Not to mention that a meth lab could have blown the entire neighborhood sky high.

    • Geezer says:

      Sky High, you say?

      You reminded me of a song released in 1975: Sky High by Jigsaw. (thanks!)
      Lyrics follow…..

      “Blown Round By The Wind
      Thrown Down In a Spin

      I Gave You Love
      I Thought That We Had Made It To The Top
      I Gave You All I Had To Give
      Why Did It Have To Stop

      You’ve Blown It All Sky High
      By Telling Me a Lie
      Without a Reason Why
      You’ve Blown It All Sky High

      You, You’ve Blown It All Sky High
      Our Love Had Wings To Fly
      We Could Have Touched The Sky
      You’ve Blown It All Sky High

      Up Round I’ve Flown
      Then Down Down Like a Stone

      I Gave You Love ..”

  22. satan.d.worldonfire says:

    Or they could have been planing a school ahooting a hate crime and a sucide bombing too.. Get real !!!!

  23. Seminole Pride says:

    Send the SWAT out. Put the scare in these low life.

  24. jim reed says:

    A raid was conducted a few houses up on pine grove a few weeks prior. SWAT all that good stuff. However no arrests. What was up with that?

  25. shadow says:

    I live down the street from the house on Pine Grove. This house is a rental and has been rented to one problem family, or person after another. Be it drugs, abuse, or just trash. The sad thing is one of the kids there is already on his way to being like John Johnson. He already has an attitude problem. So I doubt he was terrorized. I agree the Swat team was overboard.

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