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Report: Sheriff Howard's troops followed 'policy and procedure'

Scott Seitz2 • May 5, 2014 at 3:34 PM

An independent investigator has determined Huron County Sheriff's Office deputies acted according to policy and procedure during a March 25 raid at 114 1/2 Benedict Ave.

Detective Sgt. Jim Henry, from the Holmes County Sheriff's Office, conducted the investigation. Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard requested the special investigation and it was assigned by the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association.

(NOTE: To read the full report, click on the link at the end of this story.)

Some of the concerns presented in the case were whether deputies executed the warrant at the correct address and possible damage that took place at the residence of John Collins during the raid.

Henry investigated all these and more matters.

"After reviewing the investigative material compiled in advance of the search warrant, the warrant and search warrant affidavit and interviewing the officers involved in executing the search warrant, I have concluded all officers were acting in accordance to policy and procedure," Henry wrote in his report.

"Detectives (Kayla) Zander and (Rich) Larson were originally acting on an anonymous tip," Henry said. "They were able to locate the persons in question and make drug arrests. Based on the intelligence gathered from these arrests, and surveillance of the property where they viewed the suspect participating in drug trafficking from 114 1/2 Benedict Ave., and with confirmation from a photo lineup identifying the suspect (Robert Hendricks), detectives applied for a search warrant which was reviewed and issued by a common pleas court judge. The detectives supplied reliable information and probable cause and were acting in good faith."

Henry continued to explain his conclusion.

"Often times drug search warrants are executed on properties where the suspect is not found to be residing," Henry said. "It is not uncommon to find the suspect is dealing drugs from a residence other than his own.

"Often times, the suspect does not want to lose welfare assistance they are receiving for their real residence," Henry said. "I find in this case, Hendricks may be homeless, with no permanent address. He appears to have been stealing medication from his mother and father and selling the medication. At the time of execution of the search warrant, officers did not know Hendricks mother lived beside 114 1/2 Benedict Ave.

"The detectives and officers did, in fact, execute the search warrant on the correct address," Henry said. "The observations made by detectives would indicate to a reasonable person that the subjects that were observed at the residence were not in the process of breaking into the residence. They were observed moving in and out of the residence in a calm and normal manner for three hours. Hendricks was seen dealing drugs and cleaning the yard. The other two females had gone grocery shopping down the street and returned with a bag of food. One individual was identified as Collins' girlfriend, Skyler Vanmeter."

Henry offered Collins a bit of advice in his report.

"In the future, John Collins needs to be more aware of what is occurring at his apartment," Henry said. "The fact remains that John Collins claims he was out at a bar drinking with a friend until 8:30 p.m. This would indicate that he could return home any time after he had gotten off of work at 4:30 p.m.

"John Collins believes at this time a burglary was being committed at his residence," Henry said. "He claims 18 of the 60 Suboxin doses were stolen from his apartment. John Collins has not made a burglary report. He has also not submitted a written complaint of damages to the Huron County Sheriff's Office as requested. John Collins has not contacted myself to help with this investigation."

Henry addressed the issue of damage at Collins' apartment.

"In regards to the damage Collins is claiming to his tablet screen and wall hanging item, I feel these complaints are unfounded," Henry said. "Based on officer statements, at no time did the tablet fall on the ground or get stepped on by the officers. The officers did not observe any item fall from the wall. There was no forced entry into the apartment. The front door was unlocked and the officers simply entered. I, personally, observed it to be undamaged when I went to the residence to make contact with John Collins regarding this investigation. John Collins made no complaint at the time of the search warrant of any damage to his property. I find that the Huron County Sheriff's Office is not responsible for reimbursing Collins for any damages."

Henry continued to address Collins' claims.

"Through my investigation I learned that upon entry into the apartment Collins was placed on the floor between the couch and the coffee table," Henry said. "He was handcuffed on the floor for less than five minutes. Collins was then set up on the couch and, within another five minutes, his handcuffs were removed.

"Collins has claimed he had been laying face down on the floor for five to 10 minutes," Henry said. "I find the time that Mr. Collins was restrained was not unreasonable. Collins was only restrained during the time it took officers to secure the residence for their safety."

Henry commented on the arrests at the nearby apartment.

"John Collins provided subsequent information to the detectives, which led them to serve already outstanding secret indictments at the Papp apartment, 114 Benedict Ave.," Henry said.

"When they went to serve the search warrant, the detectives did not know who lived at that address," Henry added. "Only when Collins provided the name of his neighbors, Detective Sgt. (Josh) Querin remembered there were secret indictments on some of the Papp family. I find that the detectives acted properly and responsibly in locating in the area additional suspects who were wanted on outstanding warrants."

Finally, Henry explained the process of releasing information to the media in this case.

"Regarding complaints about the release of information to the media, it is typical, to ensure officer safety and to not compromise and investigation, to seal, for at least some time, affidavits for and search warrants," Henry said.

"Lifting the order is incumbent on action of the court," he added. "Law enforcement has no authority to act outside a court order. Public records access does not extend to confidential law enforcement investigatory records, which are defined as pertaining to a law enforcement matter and have a high probability of disclosing, among other things, the identity of an uncharged suspect, the identity of an information source or witness to whom confidentiality has been reasonably promised, specific confidential investigatory techniques or procedures or specific investigatory work product or information that would endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel, a crime victim, a witness, or a confidential information source," Henry said.

"I believe, given these exceptions, the sheriff's office was within their right, when the request was made, to not release the requested report," Henry concluded.

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