Riverside County in Southern California confirms it paid a couple $136,000 to settle a lawsuit deputies illegally barged into their two homes.
The Press-Enterprise reports sheriff officers raided the homes of Chen-Chen Hwang, 67, and her husband, Jiun-Tsong Wu, 75 in August 2021 on suspicions that their low energy usage was connected to an illegal marijuana grow.
Deputies apparently were acting on fears that the couple was stealing their power to support a drug operation.
An attorney for the retired couple says deputies found no evidence of criminal activity.
“This was a very strange and frightening incident,” Hwang said. “We did nothing to deserve this, and it made us feel unsafe in our own homes.”
The Sheriff’s Department did not comment on the settlement, but in an editorial, the Press-Enterprise wrote “In a free society, armed agents of the government should never be able to break down the doors of a home and terrorize innocent people. Yet that’s what deputies of Chad Bianco’s Riverside County Sheriff’s Department evidently did to Chen-Chen Hwang, 67, and her husband, Jiun-Tsong Wu, in Lake Elsinore.”
According to attorney Alex Coolman, the couple uses solar panels to reduce their electricity usage. The lawsuit which has now been dismissed following the settlement named Sgt. Julio Olguin and other sheriff’s deputies as defendants.
Coolman says deputies spent hours searching the couples’ home and when they didn’t find anything, they searched the couples second home allegedly without a search warrant.
The couple estimated the damage to their home at $6,000.
“This is the sort of unprofessional and disgraceful conduct one might expect from a rogue regime, but it shouldn’t happen here in the United States, in California or the Inland Empire,” the Press-Enterprise said in its editorial.
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