A Washington medical marijuana patient has died after being attacked by robbers who were after his pot crop. When local police were called to the scene, rather than investigating the assault, they started questioning mortally injured Michael Shane Howard about how many plants he had.
The police told Howard, who had just been clubbed in the head with a crowbar, that the medics would "probably just put a big bandage in his forehead and leave him at the house."
Two days after the attack, as Howard lay dying, the police called Howard's good friend and roommate, Renee, and asked when she was going to go visit him in the hospital.
Then while Renee visited Howard at the hospital, she got a call from a friend telling her officers from the Pierce County, Washington Sheriff's Department were raiding her home.
When Renee rushed home, she was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car for 2-1/2 hours; officers told her it was because she lived in the same residence as Howard, even though his grow operation was outside in a shed.
"They took all his plants and equipment," Renee said. "It's so sickening that they are more worried about his meds than finding out who attacked him. His skull was bashed by a crowbar; it seems like they are not even trying to find out who did it. It makes me sick to my stomach!"
The investigating officers didn't even take the murder weapon into evidence until the morning after the attack, when they finally realized Mike was likely not going to make it.
When Howard had been taken to the hospital, it was revealed that his skull was cracked and his brain was bleeding. He lay in a coma for two days before dying.
According to patient advocacy organization Cannabis Defense Coalition (CDC), Howard had been facing a constant and continued police harassment in the small town of Orting, Washington.
The local police, and Pierce County Sheriffs, would constantly pull Mike over because they knew him as the "medical marijuana activist" in town.
Ironically, local medical marijuana patient advocate Steve Sarich of CannaCare, who had spoken out forcefully in his attempt to get the word out about Howard's mistreatment at the hands of police, was himself shot in a home invasion and attempted medical marijuana robbery early Monday morning.
"This has totally gotten out of hand," Sarich said three days before his own home was invaded. "Home invasions have been increasing and these crooks are getting more violent. I've had a home invasion and I can tell you that you won't sleep well after that."
"Pierce County law enforcement officers are out of control," Sarich said. "Apparently it's OK to try to kill someone in Pierce County -- as long as they're a medical marijuana patient."
"But then to raid Mike's garden while he's in the intensive care unit is just totally inexcusable," Sarich said.
Two or more would-be medical marijuana robbers broke into Sarich's Kirkland, Washington home just before 5 a.m. Monday and exchanged gunfire with Sarich. Sarich was injured but is expected to be fine; the home invader was taken to Harborview Medical Center.
King County sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart said medical marijuana was being grown in the house and was likely the motive for the robbery. "We are aware of the house," Urquhart said, reports Susan Gilmore of The Seattle Times.
A second suspect was found hitchhiking, said Urquhart, and was being questioned by authorities, while police were searching for two other supects.
"It seems that robbery has slowly replaced police raids as the number one patient fear in Washington State," said Ben Livingston, CDC spokesman.
"Violent thieves consider medical marijuana patients to be sitting targets, rarely able to readily defend themselves," Livingston said. "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," Livingston said. "What a fucked up Catch 22."
By Steve Elliott
March 15, 2010
Toke of the Town