Pueblo County, CO -- A flash-bang grenade broke the early morning peace of Fountain, CO on July 22, 2016. At 6 am a SWAT team detonated the device and entered the home of Eli Olivas and his partner Marisela Chavez, guns drawn and -according to various statements from Olivas- fingers on the trigger. The Colorado based SWAT team was serving a search warrant for an alleged illegal cannabis grow on Olivas property when they arrived at the veteran’s home.
Olivas is a Bronze Star recipient, among other various recognition, for his service in as a sergeant and combat medic after serving in the U.S. military, he is also a patient diagnosed with PTSD as a results of his tours of duty and combat experiences. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety based emotional disorder that develops in a pers as a result of person experiencing an extremely traumatic event, or series of events. PTSD is often associated with experiences such as military combat, abuse, or domestic violence, and can led to depression and suicide in patients who suffer from this diagnosis.
Olivas is a registered patient in the Colorado medical marijuana program according to court documents, and according to Colorado state laws at the time was able to legally grow his own medicine and poses up to 99 plants. In the state of Colorado in order to grow your own cannabis plants as a patient you must adhere to certain guidelines and requirements set by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED).
These requirements include visibility and securing the cannabis plants away from outside access. The court documents available state that Olivas had only eighteen plants, which were secured inside of an enclosed greenhouse with opaque glass on all sides on Olivas’ property. The greenhouse was locked, and was also behind a locked six-foot privacy fence on Olivas’ property according to documents.
Legal representation retained by Olivas’ filed the court documents, which go on to declare that not only were the steps taken by the police and SWAT officers involved in the July 22nd raid on the combat veterans property not only unlawful because of Colorado’s patient laws, but that the warrant was served with unnecessary aggression.
The tactics used, the documents claim, caused extreme distress for the veteran which relapsed their PTSD symptoms. Olivas’ a medic for the U.S. military also claims that he and his girlfriend, Chavez, were treated with undue aggression directed towards them despite their compliance during the SWAT raid. Olivas’ and Chavez were forced to sit next to the tail pipe of a running police car, and claim “[t]he unconscionable aggression of the police would have traumatized any person, but given plaintiff Olivas’ history serving his country in combat, it affected him exponentially more severely and it has caused a relapse of his PTSD symptoms,” it also claims that Olivas’ and Chavez were being forced to inhale the exhaust of the vehicle and being refused requests to be moved away for fresh air while the raid was executed.
According the lawsuit and the couple’s legal representation, this all could have been avoided in the officers had simply checked with the state MED board to verify that Olivas’ had a permit to grow cannabis on his property.