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'I'm sitting here at gunpoint for no reason'

Cary Ashby • Mar 31, 2014 at 11:30 PM

Benedict Avenue resident John Collins freely admits his "past is a little dark."

The former heroin addict also said authorities know him "on a need-to-know basis," but for the last four to five years he's led a law-abiding life. Collins showed the Reflector a cell phone app declaring he's been sober for seven months and 15 days as of Sunday.

"I've been doing good with my sobriety," he said.

Huron County sheriff's deputies went to Collins' apartment at 114 1/2 Benedict Ave. reportedly to use a drug-related search warrant Tuesday.

However, the 26-year-old Collins said deputies had no reason to break down his door and handcuff him.

"You can ask anybody -- for the last five years, I've fallen off the map," said Collins, who refers to himself as a self-imposed hermit.

"I don't mess with nobody," added Collins, who only leaves his apartment to go to the store or stay at his mother's residence.

The raid

Collins was watching television on his couch just after 7 p.m. Tuesday before deputies entered his apartment. He said he faintly heard someone yell "sheriff!" and by the time he took two steps from his couch to see what was happening, four deputies entered his residence from opposite directions.

"Boom -- they came from that door," he said, indicating his front door, "and boom -- they came from that (back) door."

Collins said deputies told him to get on his stomach and spread his arms. After he complied, he was handcuffed. Later, deputies had him sit back on his couch.

"They left me lying for five to 10 minutes on my belly," Collins recalled, saying deputies searched his residence -- upstairs and downstairs -- during that time frame. "They counted all my pills."

During the search, deputies stepped on a $300 tablet and shattered the screen, Collins said.

"It still works, but I can't let my kid play with it," he said.

Also, when deputies opened the door, a moon decor with a star on top reportedly fell and broke. The decor is a memento of his son, who died still-born when his then-girlfriend was five months pregnant.

"You couldn't give me a million dollars for it. ... That is all I have left that reminds me of my kid," Collins said.

At some point, Detective Sgt. Josh Querin talked with Detective Kayla Zander outside. Collins said he demanded to know why they were there, but he was told to "shut up" and deputies referred to his apartment as a "drug house."

Collins said deputies told him: "You're under arrest for being in a drug house."

Zander later re-entered the apartment. Collins said she read him his rights and then uncuffed his hands, which had been behind his back while he was on the couch. Zander and other deputies went next door, where they arrested two residents -- a man and his mother.

While Collins said he waited inside his apartment with two deputies nearby with their guns reportedly drawn, he remembers "freaking out" and having a panic attack. He has taken anti-anxiety medication since he was a child. Collins said deputies refused to let him take any of that medicine while they waited.

"I'm sitting here at gunpoint for no reason," he remembered thinking. "All of my court fees have been paid up. I've been a law-abiding citizen for the last four years."

Collins' last trip to jail occurred in the fall, when he served a 10-day sentence for failing to undergo anger management counseling.

"The original charge was three years ago," he said.

Detectives reportedly determined Collins wasn't the male suspect they were seeking originally.

Querin reportedly apologized for what happened.

"'I'm sorry for scaring the (expletive) out of you.' That was his exact words," Collins said. "I told him, 'You didn't scare the (expletive) out of me; you scared the living piss out of me.'"

As a result of the incident, Collins no longer keeps his front shades drawn as he used to do and now sleeps at his mother's home. He is picked up by his mother every night about 8 p.m.

"Since that incident happened, I want to be able to see what happens," said Collins, who jumps at the sound of a siren now.

Collins has left messages for 10 attorneys, talked to three or four of them and has an appointment to meet with another. He also has alerted two news agencies and the ACLU.

Collins said, however, that he does not plan to file a lawsuit.

Neighbors nabbed

Two of Collins' next-door neighbors, Thomas M. Papp, 34, and his mother, Patricia Papp, 58, both of 114 Benedict Ave., were arrested on secret indictments that same night. Thomas Papp is charged with trafficking in oxycodone in connection with a Sept. 9, 2012 incident. His mother faces a similar felony stemming from a July 8, 2012 offense.

On Sunday, Patricia Papp and another one of her sons, Timothy, said deputies didn't have a warrant when they made the arrests.

"They didn't have the secret indictments on them. ... They're supposed to have the warrants on them," Patricia Papp said.

"Because they messed up, they had to make an arrest," her son added.

Collins, in a separate interview Sunday, said he believes deputies arrested Thomas Papp and his mother "for the purpose of being there."

Chief Deputy Ted Patrick earlier told the Reflector that while deputies were at the triplex, they received a tip that a male suspect who lives nearby -- Thomas Papp -- was wanted on a felony warrant.

Patrick could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Collins questions the logic of the sheriff's spokesman.

"How can you get a tip on a secret indictment if it's a secret indictment?," said Collins, who was unaware the Papps were wanted on warrants.

Patrick also said deputies were looking for another male suspect and while they didn't find him, they used the warrant and seized evidence that will be tested by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Patricia Papp said she didn't give deputies permission to search her home and they did so after she was arrested and out of the residence.

"They did an illegal search of my house," said Papp, who says deputies seized all of her medication.

The sheriff's office had a different explanation. Patrick said while officers didn't arrest the suspect they were seeking, they used the warrant to seize the evidence.

Was NPD there, too?

Norwalk Police Chief Dave Light had been notified beforehand that deputies would be using the warrant. He has said none of his officers were involved -- something he reaffirmed Sunday.

The Papps said they saw two Norwalk officers in blue uniforms in or near their residence Tuesday. Papp and her son said one officer was in the front lawn and in the Simply U Tanning parking lot next door and at one point, two officers were in their "living room right there by the door." They added they could tell the difference between the deputies' outfits and the Norwalk officers'.

"I just talked to (Detective Sgt.) Jim Fulton. They were doing another investigation," said Light, who called Fulton to make sure there wasn't a misunderstanding.

Suspect being sought

As for the man authorities were seeking Tuesday during the raid, "he comes and visits a couple times a months, but I didn't know he was wanted for anything," Patricia Papp said.

The Reflector isn't naming that suspect because the sheriff's office hasn't released his name.

The mother contests deputies' allegation they have a video recording or photograph of the male suspect leaving the front of her residence.

"As far as I know, he (always) came through the back door," Papp said.

Collins said he doesn't know the 41-year-old man personally.

"I know of him," said Collins, who last talked with the suspect in January. "He doesn't even live here in Norwalk."

Collins, quoting Detective Zander, said authorities thought he and the suspect "look alike from a distance."

Collins, who is about 5-foot-9 and weighs roughly 165 pounds, refuted Zander's claim, saying the other man is 5 feet 4 or 5 inches tall and weighs nearly 130 pounds.

"He's real small; he's a petite dude. (He's) clean shaven," added Collins, who has brown hair and a beard.

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