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March 16, 2010 -- Cannabis Defense Coalition (WA)

Medical Marijuana Shootings in Washington State

Medical Marijuana Murder: Pierce County Sheriff Raids Victim Of Deadly Crow Bar Attack

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Updated March 16 @11PM -- In addition to the CannaCare robbery/shooting that happened this morning (see below), last week saw one of the most horrific events our community has perhaps ever seen. The CDC was tracking the cases of Michael Shane Howard, a medical marijuana patient who had been constantly harassed by the Pierce County Sheriff's Office -- repeatedly stopped, arrested, incarcerated. His friend posted bond, and he was arrested again, and she couldn't afford another bond, so he simply sat in jail for a while. That's how we found out about his case a couple months ago.

Around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, March 9, thieves armed with a crow bar attempted to break in to Mike's medical marijuana grow in a shed on his property in Orting, Washington. Hearing something suspicious, Mike armed himself with a can of pepper spray, went outside to investigate, and was beaten with a crow bar to the head. His house mate Renee found him barely conscious, and called 911.

In the small town of Orting, Washington, Mike was well-known to law enforcement as a medical marijuana activist. Orting Police and Pierce County Sheriff's deputies would occasionally pull him over, maybe search his vehicle, and occasionally arrest him. Suffice it to say that Mike was not popular with the Pierce County police.

When police arrived, Mike could remember little about his attacker, so they began to question him about his medical marijuana grow. Mike refused to answer these questions, and police showed little sympathy, suggesting that the medics would probably just bandage his head and leave him at the house.

Howard was rushed to the hospital by paramedics. His condition worsened, and he eventually fell into a coma.

Raid Executed By Pierce County Sheriff's Office

Two days after the attack, as Howard lay dying, the police called his housemate, Renee, and asked when she was going to go visit him in the hospital. When Renee visited the hospital, Pierce County Sheriff's detectives began a raid on the home, apparently still believing his injuries minor. They found 150 cannabis plants, most of them in early stages of growth, and "booby trap" security devices used by Howard to protect his medical cannabis grow from intruders.

According to the original report from Renee, Pierce County Sheriff's basically lured her out of the house while Mike was in the hospital, then proceeded to raid the place:

When the cops came to the sceen he told them that they were trying to get his medical marijuana, they started asking questions about how many plants were there and then told him that the medics would probably just put a big bandage on his forehead and leave him at the house. Needless to say it was way more serious then that.

Yesterday around one of the police called me pretending to care about how he was doing then asked me when I going to go visit him in the hospital.

I went to the hospital and got a call from a friend saying that my house was being raided by the pierce county sheriffs so I rushed home when I got there the search warrant was not even there yet.I looked at it when they did bring it and they were already at my house about 20 min before it had been signed.

They put me in handcuffs and threw me in the back of the cop car for about 2 1/2 hours they told me it was because I live in the home even the grow was out in a shed. They took his plants and equip. its so sickening that they are more worried about his meds then finding out who attacked him. His skull was bashed by a crow bar it seems like they are not even trying to find out who did it.

Media Effort By Pierce County Sheriff's Office

From CannaCare forum post: The Pierce County Sheriff's Office is now responding to media reporters saying that Mike wasn't a patient, didn't have the proper paperwork, had more than the "allowed limit" of 15 plants, etc. as they try to cover up a pretty severe error in judgment on their part -- an error that seems based entirely on their pre-existing disdain for this member of their community because he was open about being a medical marijuana patient in a small Washington town. Note what non-specific details Pierce County is presenting to media about the case:

"This is extraordinary circumstances."

"It's very complicated."

Howard was convicted of third-degree assault for pepper-spraying a power company employee on his property.

Howard was incarcerated in the Pierce County Jail for a month and a half.

"We've been working on the case it just continues to get more complicated ..."

King 5 News has footage of the 10x10 grow room. Pierce County Sheriff's Office is telling media that Michael had 150 plants like it's a HUGE grow op -- growing in a tiny ten-foot shed. They are saying that this case has "extraordinary circumstances" and that it is "very complicated." There are lies and half truths and some people might be scared because they're involved with pot, the Sheriff's office says. "It just continues to get more complicated."

What is clear is that someone showed up at Mike Howard's house at 4 a.m. last Tuesday morning, tried to break into his tiny grow room, and when he went to investigate, they beat him in the head with a crow bar. Pierce County law enforcement, who have a history of harassing the victim, did not take the assault seriously, and began and investigation into Howard's medical marijuana grow. This led them to raid his home, taking all of his cannabis plants, as Mike Howard lied dying in a hospital bed.

All of that is "very complicated" to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, apparently.

Two Shot in CannaCare Robbery Attempt

Updated March 16, 2010 @11PM - Armed robbers broke into CannaCare early Monday morning and exchanged gun shots with executive director Steve Sarich.

Mr. Sarich was hit by a gunshot blast to the arm amd face. He returned fire, critically wounding one of the invaders -- identified by police as a 19-year-old Renton man. According to the Associated Press article, this was the series of events:

Sarich said he was awakened at his Kirkland home by the barking of his dogs, then grabbed a .22-caliber handgun and headed down a hallway outside his bedroom.

A man with a shotgun confronted him in the living room and fired, he said. The main blast struck a wall a few inches from his head, Sarich said. One pellet struck his face while another hit his leg.

Sarich shot at the robber but missed. When his gun jammed, he darted back to his bedroom and grabbed another handgun. He spotted another robber standing outside the glass door to his bedroom and fired three times, hitting the robber multiple times.

Sarich's live-in girlfriend called 911, as did the wounded robber, a 19-year-old from Renton. King County sheriff's deputies found him in the backyard and took him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he underwent surgery for life-threatening wounds.

Sheriff's deputies arrested a second suspect, also 19, as he tried to flag down a ride nearby a few hours later. That suspect gave investigators the names of two others involved in the robbery attempt who had fled in a vehicle. They remained at large, sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart said.

It seems that robbery has slowly replace police raids as the number one patient fear in Washington State. Violent thieves consider medical marijuana patients to be sitting targets, rarely able to readily defend themselves. When patients do call police during or after a robbery, most often the police show up, take a report, and raid the patient. So, most medical marijuana patients have learned that calling the police for protection is a sure fire way to have one's home raided. Quite the Catch 22.

Update on Steve's condition

According to Ken's post on the CannaCare forums:

Just got off the phone with SteveS, he is in good spirits for what he just went through. I am almost in shock, but I will try to tell it the best I can. Allegedly, there were two or more suspects in SteveS house armed with a shotgun. One suspect shot at SteveS, SteveS shot back hitting one suspect and his gun jammed. Chelsea, who acted w/o fear, handed SteveS another 22 cal handgun and SteveS shot back, hitting another suspect three times in the chest. SteveS was hit by the shotgun pellets in his face and arm. What concerns SteveS now is the fact that the LEO are currently at his house tossing it like a herd of raging bulls. SteveS has been in contact with his attorney and will be released from the hospital shortly. He will have to have another doctor remove the shotgun pellets at a later date. Right now, I am just thankful that SteveS, Chelsea and whoever else was spending the night at SteveS, were not seriously injured or worse yet, killed by these armed intruders. Also, the police would not come onto the property, SteveS had to walk up the driveway to them and then they handcuffed him (those weren't removed until he was being placed into the ambulance). I will post more as I get any new information. KMJ.

VisitCannabis Defense Coalition at for updates on both these stories.

Also visit our "WA State Activism" section.

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