A senior Asian couple living in Lake Elsinore, California, received $136,000 in settlement payments after they sued their county sheriff’s department for allegedly searching their homes without a warrant last year.
In their lawsuit filed in March, Chen-Chen Hwang, 67, and her husband Jiun-Tsong Wu, 75, alleged that deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department raided their two homes on Aug. 5, 2021. The couple’s lawyer, Alex Coolman, said the deputies suspected they were “stealing power to grow marijuana because their power consumption was low,” as per the Southern California News Group.
But Hwang and Wu were simply “thrifty,” Coolman said in a tweet. The couple uses solar panels to reduce their overall power usage.
“This was a very strange and frightening incident,” Hwang said in a news release. “We did nothing to deserve this, and it made us feel unsafe in our own homes.”
The deputies allegedly broke multiple doors and rummaged through the couple’s belongings in their first home, resulting in damages worth nearly $6,000. In the end, they found no evidence of marijuana farming.
They then allegedly shifted their attention to Hwang and Wu’s second home, which sits in the same subdivision. Hwang, who was present, did not consent to the warrant-less raid, but the deputies allegedly took photos of the residence and raided its garage for up to 15 minutes.
At the time, Wu spoke to Sgt. Julio Olguin — who was leading the search — on the phone and asked them to leave. During their conversation, Olguin allegedly “admitted that the searches of the homes were illegal.”
The suit was reportedly dismissed on Aug. 15. A settlement was finalized and two payments of $68,000 were issued to the couple, according to Riverside County spokesperson Yaoska Machado.
The Press-Enterprise subsequently released an editorial on the subject, writing that “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.”
“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 wrote.