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Oops ... police hit the wrong house in porn raid

AP | October 5 2006

SPOKANE -- For a 67-year-old homeowner and his wife, wrongly subjected to a shattering pornography search, saying, "Oops, wrong number" is not enough.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich apologized Tuesday for the blunder, which he said resulted when Detective Timothy Hines tried to nail whoever was responsible for obscene calls to at least 20 women enrolled at Whitworth College.

Hines wrote down the wrong figures for a telephone number associated with the calls, and he obtained a search warrant for a house in Spokane, miles from the correct location in suburban Spokane Valley, Knezovich said.

The irate homeowner told The Spokesman-Review, which did not identify him at his request, that deputies dumped out drawers, went through his wallet and checkbook, seized computers, CDs, floppy disks, VHS tapes and other material and refused to clean up the mess in the raid Sept. 27.

A half-dozen sheriff's vehicles converged on the house, and after taking photos outside, Hines told officers within hearing of the neighbors, "Now let's go inside and get some porn," the owner said.

"It's like the gang that can't do it right," he said. "They shoot themselves in the foot, and then they all come to make peace.

"What would you do if somebody came to your door and ripped your whole house apart, turned everything upside down and said you are a porno freak?"

Among the confiscated items were copies of "The Lion King" and "Snow White," found in a bedroom where the couple's granddaughter stays when she comes to visit, the man said.

The victim said he had hired a lawyer. He did not say whether he planned to sue but told the newspaper, "I'm not going to be treated like this and dragged around."

Hines realized his mistake Monday when he checked the accuracy of the phone number with a telephone company, sheriff's Capt. Bruce Mathews said.

By then the target of the search -- a 40-year-old man who used parts of his name to contrive aliases -- was gone.

Knezovich said he plans to adopt a more structured system for checking facts in search warrants, adding that Hines probably would not be disciplined.

"I could see it if it was a blatant lack of diligence," the sheriff said, "but sometimes things like that happen.

"A number can get transposed."

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