The Big Raid!:
Valley Police Department, Summer 1992
So the Search Warrant wasn’t a total bust.

Previous to working in Douglas County, if an arrest warrant or search warrant was ever needed, one had to plead his case to the County Attorney. If the prosecutor believed he wanted to pursue the matter, his office would prepare the affidavits and supporting documentation and present it to the court for review and approval. Typically, this process, provided the County Attorney was on board, could take anywhere from two to ten days before one would have the writ in hand.

Douglas County had a much more progressive approach to this process. Based partly on a US Supreme Court Ruling, it recognized that law enforcement officers were not attorneys, thus the level of scrutiny over technical errors that might be found in the affidavits for requesting such writs might not be as intense. You still had to have your facts straight, and stated in a truthful manner, but since it was assumed we were just simple cops, they provided us some leeway. Secondly, while the attorneys might still be there to give advice, this took a great deal of the labor off of the Prosecutors in generating the paperwork involved with arrest warrants and search warrants.

I was not aware of this the first time I needed an arrest warrant in Douglas County. Fortunately, a secretary from the County Attorney’s Office provided me with the templates, (and a typewriter,) I could use to draw up the paperwork. She then handed me off to the Clerk of the County Court’s Office to take me through the nexts phase of the process. To make a long story short, in a day, I more or less learned the whole entire process from end to end, and walked out of the Courthouse with an arrest warrant in hand.

As time went on, and I gained more experience, I got better and quicker at preparing such affidavits, and walking them through the process. When the Police Department obtained a PC Computer in 1985 or 1986, this process became much more simple, as I could use ready made templates, and error correction was nearly automatic. By 1987, Officers from other neighboring agencies were coming to me to help with the production of their affidavits, and I would school them on the step by step process unique to their writ, to get them in and out with ready to serve paper in hand.

In 1992, nearly all of the towns in Western Douglas County, Southern Dodge, and Eastern Saunders Counties were suffering from thefts and burglaries of automotive stereo equipment.* It was believed, (and correctly so,) that these thefts were being committed by the same group of individuals. The neighboring Waterloo Police Department believed that they had a break in the case, when they learned of an individual known to many of us as Charlie, who resided at King Lake as being the person who was selling this stolen equipment for the thieves. Officer Warren Buzek came to me with his reports and information to help produce an Affidavit for a Search Warrant.

(*See the story about Stupid Criminals for another angle on this case.)

I read all of Buzek’s reports and information, and we talked about a few details before we sat down at the keyboard, and I started building the document. Warren had some good, reliable information and all this was presented in a logical and organized fashion within the affidavit.

Unless there are special, extenuating circumstances, Search Warrants can only be served during the day, and officers must knock on the door and announce their identity and purpose before serving the warrant. If there are special, extenuating circumstances where officer safety or preservation of evidence is concerned, exceptions to these conditions can be made. This must be spelled out and articulated in the Affidavit for the Search Warrant for the Judge to consider and approve.

When we were nearly done preparing the affidavit, Buzek pointed out that Charlie had two prior convictions for weapons offenses, and he believed we could have a “No Knock” Search Warrant authorized by the Judge. Personally, I did not agree that a “No-Knock” warrant would be needed or issued for a stolen property case, but this was Buzek’s Affidavit, and he could certainly make the argument to the Judge. I added the information to the affidavit, and Buzek would present the affidavit to the Court the following morning.

On my arrival to work the following afternoon, I was informed that Buzek had indeed obtained a No-Knock Search Warrant and that there would be a 4:00 PM meeting at Waterloo to plan the execution of the warrant. I was expected to be there.

At the meeting was Buzek, two Sheriff’s Deputies, Several State Patrol Road Troopers, including an NSP Sergeant. The overall plan was as follows: All officers would roll onto the scene at once. Since it was Buzek’s warrant, he as a uniformed officer would be the first officer the go through the front door. Since we were technically in County Jurisdiction, the next officer in would be a uniformed Sheriff’s Deputy. This was Danny Longwell. Since I did the labor to prepare the warrant affidavit, I was granted the job as number three officer through the door. My specific job was to enter and run to the back of the house to secure the back door. All other officers were to envelope and surround the house and property.

So the big moment for the raid arrives, and away we go. We arrive at King Lake en masse, and proceed directly to Charlie’s residence. Buzek, takes the lead, followed by Longwell, with me bringing up the rear. While Charlie is sitting in his easy chair, drinking a beer, dressed only in his underwear, Buzek flies through the front door, trips over the ottoman, and lands on the floor! Longwell runs in behind Buzek, and trips over Buzek and also lands on the floor! While Charlie is sitting stunned in his chair, to see cops literally falling into his living room, I came running up, vaulting over and past the pile of cops on the floor, continuing to the back of the house, kicking open what I thought was the back door only to find Charlie’s wife sitting on the toilet!

Once the dust settled, the organized search began. None of the stolen electronic equipment that Buzek was looking for was found, but we did find and recovered a stolen motorcycle. So the Search Warrant wasn’t a total bust, and Buzek was at least able to arrest Charlie for something.

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