Iraq War Veteran Sues Colorado Cops Over Raid on Legal Medical Marijuana Grow
Instead of checking for his legal permit, the Fountain, Colorado SWAT team raided Eli Olivas' house and triggered the combat veteran’s severe PTSD.
Published on August 19, 2017

A U.S. special forces veteran is suing the city of Fountain, Colorado and its police force after cops raided his legal medical marijuana grow. Eli Olivas, who was awarded the Bronze Star after serving in both Iraq and Bosnia, and his girlfriend, Marisela Chavez, are suing the city for failing to properly train its cops to investigate marijuana grows in the canna-legal state.

According to the Denver Post, in the early morning hours of July 22, 2016, a SWAT team raided Olivas' home with a warrant for marijuana, firearms, and ammunition. According to the lawsuit, the warrant was based on weak and untrustworthy evidence. Olivas was legally registered with the state as a medical marijuana user after being diagnosed with combat-related PTSD. The veteran was legally growing 18 cannabis plants in a greenhouse surrounded by a privacy fence, well within the state's legal limit of 99 plants.

The cops fired a flash-bang grenade, broke down one of the gates of Olivas' privacy fence, and placed him and his girlfriend in handcuffs. “The unconscionable aggression of the police would have traumatized any person, but given plaintiff Olivas’ history serving his country in combat, it affected him exponentially more severely and it has caused a relapse of his PTSD symptoms,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the court filing, police forced Olivas and Chavez to sit next to the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle, leaving them both to suffer symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The officers issued Olivas a summons and complaint for an illegal marijuana grow. The summons was never filed in court, but the veteran was still forced to pay for an attorney to try and resolve the situation.

Attorney Terrence Johnson filed a lawsuit on Olivas and Chavez's behalf this week, seeking compensatory damages of over $100,000. Olivas and his lawyer are also demanding the return of several firearms that were confiscated by the police but never given back. “At all times relevant herein, the individual defendants acted intentionally, willfully and wantonly, maliciously, and with reckless disregard for and deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s rights,” the lawsuit reads.

Johnson will argue that the Olivas raid was not an isolated event, but a symptom of the city's failure to properly train its police to investigate marijuana grows in a state where some such grows are legal.

In what amounted to nothing more than a violent act of excessive force and improper use of taxpayer funds, the police investigating the grow could have simply checked state records to find out whether or not Olivas had a legal permit.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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