Authorities said they gathered information during a highly contested drug-related search warrant which led to the arrest of a mother and son on secret indictments.
The Huron County Sheriff’s Office went to John Collins’ apartment at 114 1/2 Benedict Ave. to use a drug-related search warrant March 25.
Collins has said he’s been a law-abiding citizen for the last four to five years and contends deputies had no reason to break down his door and handcuff him.
Sheriff Dane Howard gave the Reflector his perspective of the incident Monday.
“It’s clear my detectives acted in accordance with the law and executed the search warrant (appropriately),” the sheriff said. “The deputies acted properly and there was no misconduct and it’s as simple as that.”
Howard said the warrant clearly listed that deputies were seeking drug paraphernalia and “all the chatter and rumors” about deputies going to the wrong residence simply isn’t true.
“I don’t think that in my 30 years as a law-enforcement officer that anybody is happy about executing a search warrant and (officers) taking their drugs,” Howard added.
Ultimately, Collins wasn’t arrested, but he provided information that led to his next-door neighbors being arrested.
“That information came out of the use of the search warrant,” Howard said.
Howard said the warrant clearly listed that deputies were seeking drug paraphernalia. He said his officers found some suspected items, which Collins said "was for his drug abuse." The sheriff expects Collins to be charged once the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation tests the evidence.
Chief Deputy Ted Patrick said detectives had probable cause there was "drug activity taking place" at Collins' apartment and suspected drug abusers had been "going in and out" of there.
Patrick explained what led to using the search warrant at Collins’ apartment and how deputies can use information to make warrant-related arrests — even though they don’t have the indictments with them at the time.
Generally when using search warrants, deputies secure everyone who is present for officers’ safety until they can figure out where the suspects and any possible weapons are, Patrick said.
“Drugs and guns go hand in hand,” he added. “When we confirm everyone is safe, … then we release them.
"There’s nothing wrong with the search warrant,” Patrick said, referring to the raid. “That’s the only search warrant we had.”
Deputies asked Collins if he knew who else lives in the three-apartment complex. Patrick said when Collins mentioned Thomas Papp and his mother Patricia live on the other side of him, that reminded one of the detectives that one of the Papps was wanted on a secret indictment.
“They let us in the home. One of them was arrested,” Patrick said about the Papps.
Thomas M. Papp, 34, of 114 Benedict Ave., 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. They have been released on bond.
When deputies ran the names of the other occupants of the Papp residence March 25, they determined either the mother or her son was wanted on a warrant, Patrick said.
“We didn’t know who lived next door until Collins told us. … Through Collins, we learned where the Papps lived,” he continued.
Patricia Papp and another one of her sons, Timothy, told the Reflector deputies didn’t have a warrant when they made the arrests. Patricia Papp also said authorities should know where she lives since she’s been there for eight years.
“They didn’t have the secret indictments on them. … They’re supposed to have the warrants on them,” she said.
“Because they messed up, they had to make an arrest,” her son added.
Patrick said it’s not necessary to have a warrant in hand when arresting a suspect.
“All you have to have is knowledge of a warrant,” Patrick said. “I don’t have to have that in hand. … It happens every day.”
The sheriff’s spokesman used the example of an officer knowing a certain person is wanted on a warrant. Patrick said the officer then can use that knowledge to arrest the suspect.
Patrick said once deputies took the Papps to the Huron County Jail, they were served with their warrants.
“As soon as they were arrested, they were served with a secret indictment.”
Mistaken identity of officers
The question of the Norwalk Police Department being at or near the Papps’ residence possibly was a case of mistaken identity.
The Papps alleged they saw two Norwalk officers at the scene March 25. They said one cop was in the front lawn and another was 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.”
However, Chief Dave Light has said multiple times his officers weren’t involved in the warrant even though deputies had notified them beforehand.
“I just talked to (Detective Sgt.) Jim Fulton. They were doing another investigation,” Light said Sunday.
Patrick confirmed that Norwalk police weren’t at the scene. The sheriff’s spokesman said it’s possible the officers identified by the Papps were members of the Huron County drug task force who were at the residence.
“They weren’t dressed in blue uniforms like Norwalk,” Patrick said. “Norwalk wasn’t there; they weren’t involved.”