Arlington SWAT Team Raids Commune Looking for Weed, Finds Only Hippies and Tall Grass
Correction: The original version of the post incorrectly stated that Quinn Eaker was arrested for marijuana possession on July 30. He was not. The officer who wrote the search warrant affidavit states that she "has good reason to believe and does believe" that Eaker possessed weed, but Arlington police confirmed that he was neither arrested nor cited for it.
Original post: The folks who live there don't call The Garden of Eden a hippie commune. They prefer "small Intentional Community," or sometimes "New Paradigm EcoVillage." Here's how they describe it on their website:
The Garden of Eden ... exists as a showcase to highlight just how easy, abundant, and sustainable life can be. What an amazing blessing and opportunity it is to be alive and how much there is to enjoy in the experience of being alive on this earth. We are not here in these bodies, on this earth, merely to survive, but to THRIVE!
Life in the GOE is a beautiful balance of modern technology and a sustainable lifestyle. Computers, electronics, cars, and other modern devices are indeed a part of life here, and yet there are also composting toilets, wildcrafted gardens, and other creative implementations that make our day-to-day life more ecologically and energetically sustainable.
In order to truly embrace a LIFE of sustainability, one must cultivate a full spectrum consciousness of sustainability that provides the foundation for one's relationship with all daily aspects of life. We provide many solutions for not only the big things like housing and food, but the little things like toilet paper and dishes. By upgrading many little aspects of an unsustainable life, BIG results occur.
Whatever you choose to call it, it's not something you'd expect to find in southwest Arlington. Yet that's where Shellie Smith bought a home and three acres on Mansfield Cardinal Road in 1996 and where, almost a dozen years later, Garden of Eden's often shirtless pied piper Quinn Eaker ("the womb in which the GOE grew and the portal through which it was birthed") came to stay.
In the years since, the property has been transformed into a working organic farm roughly the size of a football field, an artisan clothing and jewelry boutique, and a restaurant which, as you can see to the right, features a frequently shirtless Eaker.
Clearly, the Garden of Eden is not a concept that meshes well with a suburb that only recently -- and only hesitantly -- embraced the radical idea of mass transit. It was probably inevitable that there would be a run-in with neighbors and city officials, which is exactly what happened on August 2.
Eaker described what happened in a press release sent to media outlets last week: At 7:30 a.m., the community's residents were awakened by a city of Arlington SWAT team looking for weed. All eight adults in the house, including the mother of a 22-month-old toddler, were initially handcuffed, then forced to mow the grass and destroy okra, blackberries, lamb's quarters and other plants. Eaker was arrested for outstanding traffic tickets.
"I think every single right we have was violated," he told WFAA. "Every single one." Smith added in an email on Monday that Eaker "has been targeted by the local government for living true to his spiritual path."
The city of Arlington doesn't dispute that the raid took place nor that the adults were handcuffed, which they called "standard procedure in narcotics investigations." And just because they didn't find any marijuana, they argue, didn't mean they didn't have reasonable cause to suspect it was being grown there.
A search warrant affidavit notes that Eaker was
arrested on July 30 for carrying less than two ounces of marijuana on July 30. This prompted an investigation by Detective M. Perez, whose undercover tour of the property during a public event one weekend did nothing to allay her suspicions.
Further raising her hackles was the prominent advertisement on the Garden of Eden website of "Uber Dank High Vibe Cuisine." The site describes it in completely innocent terms:
Uber Dank is quite a play on words, so a little explanation is beneficial. Uber is West coast slang meaning "over the top" or "extraordinary." Uber is also a German word meaning "super," basically the same thing. Dank is West coast slang morphed into the meaning of "high quality," mostly pertaining to consumables. Dank is also a German word meaning "overflowing gratitude."
But Perez wasn't buying it. She writes in her affidavit that she knows "through her training and experience that "Uber Dank" is also slang for high quality marijuana. [She] also knows that individuals who consume marijuana often refer to the sensation felt after consumption as a 'high'. The website mentions the word high multiple times while describing the food. In addition, [Perez] knows that some people consume marijuana by baking it into their food.
So, Arlington police called in the Texas Department of Public Safety, which sent a manned aircraft to patrol the area. The pilot spotted what he took to be marijuana plants in a 30'-by-30' area between the pool and house.
Nor does Perez buy the facade of the Garden of Eden residents as friendly, happy-go-lucky hippies. A tipster told her there were guns on the property -- two rifles and one handgun, at least -- and she worried that the fact that a large chain-link gate marked the only entrance could lead raiding officer into a "fatal funnel," in which the occupants are easily able to mow down the cops as they enter the property.
Such fears turned out to be unfounded, and not just because the SWAT team caught the residents asleep. No guns were found, just lots of weeds and old tires and various other debris that code enforcement officers carried away.
The way things played out, you have to wonder if Arlington's response was just a tad bit excessive. The city doesn't think so, as detailed in the search warrant affidavit and a statement released Monday evening:
On February 27, 2013, Code Compliance Services issued a Nuisance Abatement Order to Shellie Smith, the property owner of record at 7325 Mansfield Cardinal Road. As detailed in the search warrant affidavit, since 2011 Code Compliance Services has received numerous complaints from residents who live in the area and are concerned about their health and safety due to the current unsanitary conditions on the property that promotes the harboring of rodents, mosquitoes and fire hazards. Moreover, the residents are concerned that the conditions interfere with the useful enjoyment of their properties and are detrimental to property values and community appearance.
The Nuisance Abatement Order was issued after an investigation was conducted, and the property owner was provided notices of violation and time to remedy the identified code violations. Ms. Smith declined to attend a Nuisance Determination Hearing she requested. City codes exist in order to protect the health and safety of the public. To date, Ms. Smith has failed to comply with the order and the nuisance conditions continue to exist on the property.
Below you'll find the search warrant. It's a fairly entertaining read.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- That's It Then: The Cowboys 2015 Season Gets Put Out of Its Misery
Sun., Nov. 29, 2:00pm
Tue., Dec. 1, 7:00pm
Fri., Dec. 4, 7:00am
Fri., Dec. 4, 7:05pm
- The Cowboys' 5 Biggest Thanksgiving Turkeys
- Live From London: Your Holiday Weekend Weather Apocaforecast