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Was Warrant Warranted? : Raid Yields No Drugs, Leaves Family Fearful and Upset

Times Staff Writer

San Diego police say the home of Adelita Pina is a center for drug dealing.

Adelita Pina says police have made a mistake.

In a search warrant affidavit, narcotics officers said they expected to find “kilos of marijuana” and other drug paraphernalia in an Aug. 31 raid on the woman’s four-room house, situated in a crime-ridden Southeast San Diego neighborhood.

Pina, 31, and mother of three daughters, said there may have been drug-dealing at a nearby house, but not at hers. In an interview conducted in Spanish, Pina said she has been frustrated in her efforts “to talk to somebody in authority” about the police intrusion.

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“I didn’t think that things like this happened in the United States. I didn’t know that the police could enter your home, handcuff your children, put them on the floor and search your house. It’s such a helpless feeling. There’s nothing you can do. They made a mistake, but they don’t want to admit it” said Pina, a recent immigrant from Mexico.

No Evidence of Drugs

Lt. Dan Berglund, head of the Police Department’s narcotics street team, said his officers were justified in raiding Pina’s 39th Street home.

“We did make entry in the right house and had all the probable cause to be there,” said Berglund. Later, he said police were not accusing Pina and her family of selling drugs, but suggested that “maybe someone else had access to the house to sell drugs.”

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There is agreement on one point: The police search revealed no evidence of drug or criminal activity. A “receipt and inventory” document used in the search and signed by Detective Roger Grano, reads “nothing taken.” Nobody was arrested as a result of the search.

Pina’s experience with the criminal justice system began two weeks ago, when she arrived home from work to find her house a mess and her daughters and sister in hysterics. Pina, who works six days a week cleaning houses, arrived minutes after the police had finished their search and departed.

Alma Pina, Adelita’s 14-year-old daughter, said she was talking on the telephone when a vanload of heavily armed narcotics officers, wearing bulletproof vests, stopped in front of her home at about 4:30 p.m.

“I saw them through the bedroom window. It’s no secret that another house in the neighborhood is used for drug sales. I thought they were going to raid it,” said Alma.

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An unsuspecting and curious Guadalupe Pina, an aunt who was staying with the family, opened the front door in time to face about eight narcotics officers who pointed their handguns and shotguns at the woman’s face, Alma said.

“My aunt screamed, and I went into the living room. The police pointed their guns at me and told us not to move,” said Alma, a student atPoint Loma High School.

Ricardo Oviedo, who is Adelita Pina’s brother-in-law, was also at the

house when police arrived. Oviedo, who recently moved to San Diego from Orange County, said that police ordered him, Guadalupe Pina and Alma onto the floor, where they were handcuffed. Oviedo said police used a plastic strap to tie his wrists together.

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Alma said her two younger sisters, ages 6 and 8, were made to sit across the room and were crying. The younger children were not handcuffed.

According to Alma and Oviedo, one of the officers read a two-page search warrant affidavit to them. In the affidavit, officer Miguel Rosario said police expected to find “bulk marijuana, kilos of marijuana, firearms and ammunition, and other documentation related to the sale and transfer of marijuana” inside the house.

Berglund said that, about 10 days before the warrant was served, an undercover officer had negotiated a marijuana deal at Pina’s house with a man named “Pete.” According to Berglund, the officer met with Pete by the side of Pina’s house, and the two men completed the transaction inside. In the affidavit, Pete is described as 25-years-old, about 6 feet tall, and weighing about 140 pounds.

“They (police) made a buy from that location. When making the buy, the guy was standing on the side of the house. He didn’t want to deal there. They went inside the house,” said Berglund. Berglund said he was not sure who else was in the house when the drug deal was made.

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“They asked us about Pete,” said Alma. “But none of us knew the Pete they were talking about.”

According to Berglund, the teen-ager told police that Pete was her boyfriend. This admission further convinced officers that the search was justified, Berglund said.

Left Empty-Handed

Alma tells a different story.

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“I told them that I know a Pete who lives down the street. He’s 16, and I offered to show them where he lives. But the police told me they were looking for someone who is 25 years old,” said Alma. " . . . They kept telling us that another officer had come to our house to buy marijuana from someone named Pete.”

After an hour-long search, the police departed empty-handed. Before leaving, one of the officers jokingly told them, “Don’t worry. We’re not going to call the immigration to pick you up,” said Alma, who like the other members of her family, are legal residents of the United States.

“They never said, ‘We’re sorry,’ or anything like that,” said Alma. “The man who seemed to be in charge (Grano) dropped his card on the table and said, ‘If you guys have any questions, here’s my card.’ ”

When Adelita Pina arrived home, she called police officials and demanded an explanation.

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“I used what little English I know to ask for an explanation. The officer I talked to said he was sure that we were selling drugs from my house. Then a Spanish-speaking officer got on the telephone and told me that perhaps my daughter has a boyfriend named Pete who sell drugs at my house. He said, ‘When we go to someone’s house, it’s because we’re sure someone is selling drugs,’ ” said Pina.

The tiny woman said that, if she is guilty of anything, it is “being poor and living in a neighborhood full of drugs.” The woman said she is so concerned about drug dealers and users hanging out in front of her house, that she hired a private security firm to patrol her home. She showed a reporter a contract that she signed with Newwalt Security Patrol.

‘Feel So Helpless’

“I feel so helpless, so frustrated about this incident. I feel like there’s nothing I can do. I’m embarrassed because the neighbors saw what happened. Maybe they think that we are dealing drugs from my house. I want to talk to somebody in authority. I want someone to listen. I want to tell them that we are a good family. We work. That’s why we came to this country, to work. Not to deal drugs,” said Pina.

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Berglund said it is “not unusual” for officers to return empty-handed after executing a search warrant. He also said “it’s really not unusual to have people dealing out of someone else’s house. We have people paying neighbors sometimes to use their homes to sell drugs.”

But Pina believes they just got the wrong house. Five days after narcotics officers descended on their home, police returned to the neighborhood and raided the nearby house that is used to sell drugs, Pina said.


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