Drug Law

Georgia Drug Bust Gone Bad: Elderly Woman Hospitalized

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

An elderly woman is in a Georgia hospital after suffering a heart attack during a mistaken drug raid at her house -- a house police had under surveillance for two years. This incident comes on the heels of a highly publicized Missouri drug-bust-gone-bad that was captured on video and ended with a dead dog.

Helen Pruett, 76, was home alone in her trailer Tuesday morning, when Polk County policed officers and DEA agents went to her house -- with guns drawn -- to serve an arrest warrant.

"It was not a search warrant," Polk County police Chief Kenny Dodd told WSB Radio. "She came to the door, opened it and talked with us on the steps. The house was never breached."

After speaking with Pruett at the front door, officers "realized that the subject we were looking for was not there," Dodd said.

However, the woman's daughter tells a slightly different story. Machelle Holt says officers swarmed the house.

"She was at home and a bang came on the back door and she went to the door and by the time she got to the back door, someone was banging on the front door and then they were banging on her kitchen window saying 'police, police,'" Holl told WSB.

Holl says the house was surrounded and she was scared to open the door. When Dodd finally convinced her she was safe, she let them in.

Dodd said at some point, Pruett started feeling ill. "She made us aware that she was having chest pains and we got her medical attention. I stayed with her and kept her calm and talked with her, monitored her vital signs until the ambulance arrived," said Dodd.

Doctors confirm Pruett had a heart attack. Holl says her mother has had three previous heart attacks but had been doing better the past couple of years.

"She was traumatized.  Even the doctor said this is what happens when something traumatic happens. He said it's usually like a death in the family or something like that just absolutely scares them half to death, and that is what has happened," said Holl.

The chief defended the decision to approach the house with guns drawn. "These were considered high-risk warrants," Dodd said. "These individuals are known drug dealers and they were looking at a lot of time in federal prison so, obviously, when we serve those types of warrants, we usually go in with guns drawn just to protect ourselves."

Police and the DEA are investigating how they could have possibly had the wrong house under surveillance for two years. Holl said it's an unforgivable error.   

"They have totally made a really bad mistake. You would think that with the officers and the SWAT team and the DEA they would make sure that all of their I's are dotted, all of their T's are crossed before they go bursting into someone's home like that," said Holl.

Dodd says he has gone to the hospital to check on Pruett and apologize to the family for what has happened.

Police did end up making seven drug arrests relating to the two-year investigation.