A quiet, shady South Salinas neighborhood became the scene of a drug search around 8am on Thursday morning, July 20, after police forced open the front door of a home on El Paso Place.
The San Benito County Unified Narcotics Enforcement Team, under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Justice, served a search warrant on the home of Mike Hackett, who operates a cannabis-cultivation business and nursery south of Salinas.
Hackett stood in the driveway, hands cuffed with a zip-tie in front of him, while officers searched his home and two SUVs.
“They’re not going to find anything,” Hackett said Thursday morning.
About an hour later, agents were seen pulling a plastic bag of marijuana out of a tan-colored SUV parked on the street in front of the house.
They also removed a passport, digital camera, a binder and other paperwork from the car, and put those belongings into evidence bags. Officers with search dogs moved in and out of the house.
“We’re following up on an investigative lead,” task force Cmdr. Richard Westphal says. “We may find something, we may not.”
As of about 11:30am, they had made no arrests. Hackett was being detained during the search. Others who were home at the time police arrived were being detained inside, Westphal says, though he declined to say how many others there were.
Attorney Elisa Stewart of the Emeryville firm Stewart & Musell, which represents Hackett’s Riverview Farms in Salinas, looked on from the sidewalk. She said she was the third attorney for Hackett to arrive during the course of the search, and the third to request a copy of the search warrant—and to not receive it.
Tom Worthington, Hackett’s criminal defense attorney, says officers refused to show him the search warrant, and would only allow him to speak to Hackett while an officer stood alongside them. He says an officer threatened to arrest him if he didn't get off the property, and he thought breaking down the front door was an extreme measure: "I thought it was strong-arm tactics," he adds.
“Obviously, the authorities in San Benito County think he’s in violation of a law. We do not think he’s in violation of any law at all,” Worthington says.
“My understanding is that if he has possession of marijuana, it is lawful possession of marijuana.”
Worthington believes the search is connected to Hackett’s arrest in Hollister on July 1; he was released on bail July 2, and has not been charged in connection with that incident, stemming from an alleged bar fight during the Hollister rally, a motorcycle gathering.
UPDATE: Hackett was not arrested and was eventually released; no arrests were made in the course of the search on Thursday.
Nic Coury and Mary Duan contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the following correction. The evidence police were seen removing from Hackett's car includes plastic bags of marijuana. It did not include bags of a white powder, as previously reported.