The long-awaited investigative report detailing Longmont's warrantless searches of low income housing units has finally been released.
The Weld County Sheriff's Office investigated the use of warrantless drug dog searches by Longmont Police and the Longmont Housing Authority.
In the report, residents of the government-funded housing said they felt "pressured," as if they couldn't say no to the K9 searches.
The searches took place in May, and nearly again in June, until an alert resident reached out to 9NEWS and other media outlets to expose what she felt was a violation of her rights.
She was right.
In November, four tenants reached a $210,000 settlement with the city of Longmont as a result of the warrantless searches.
The investigation found that two K9 unit officers, Michael Marquardt and Billy Sawyer, and their sergeant, Andy Feaster, violated Longmont Police Department's policy regarding the K9 unit.
It also found that Marquardt and Sawyer searched at least three units without warrants or consent.
Public Safety Chief Mike Butler confirmed to 9NNEWS that Marquardt will receive 30 hours suspension, which represents three days of work. Sawyer will get 10 hours (one day). Feaster is not being disciplined.
When asked if he felt that was sufficient punishment, Butler said, "yes."
When asked if it was too strict, he said, "you asked me if it's sufficient, that's enough."
Krystal Winship Erazo, the Director of Operations for the Longmont Housing Authority at the time of the searches, asked for the drug dogs to be brought to The Suites, according to the investigative report. She wanted two specific units searched. She called them "targets of concern" and suspected the tenants were "supplying or dealing meth and/or heroin."
One of those units was searched without the tenant being home, which may be allowed for The Suites management to do, but certainly not police officers, at least without a warrant, exigent circumstances or consent.
When Erazo and Alma Collins, the on-site supportive services manager, searched the unit, they found it to be "very clean and in good shape." The tenant was not home, but then "after they exited she (Erazo) waved the Officer and K9 in to conduct a search."
A second unit was also searched without anyone home.
A tenant who left to run errands, came home and "found Alma and Krystal were standing outside her door, and when she approached her door she saw an LPD Officer and K9 in her living room."
Collins would later tell officers that "the tenants' ability to refuse the K9 search was not properly communicated to the residents, nor was the right to refuse the K9 search properly communicated to her."
In all, eight units were searched, though the K9 officers could only remember searching three units each, for a total of six.
Investigators found, "the lack of contemporaneous and specific reporting and/or recording of the K9 searches by residents, LHA Staff, and LPD members is specifically concerning, as it limits its accuracy, usefulness, and affects the credibility of the information."
Multiple tenants said they felt pressured to let the K9 officer into the unit.
One said he "was nervous due to his past involvement with the law and feared being evicted if he refused."
Another tenant also said he believed "he would be evicted if he didn't allow the dog inside."
Six of the nine tenants, representing eight total units, were interviewed by a Longmont Police internal affairs investigator before the Weld County Sheriff's Office investigator became involved. According to the report, the Weld County investigator contacted those six to add, subtract or confirm the information from the Longmont investigator. Weld County indicated that it did not duplicate the work of the Longmont investigator, despite this being an independent investigation.
The officers admitted that they did not expressly seek permission from the tenants, which is required by law, but instead let Erazo and Collins do the talking.
Erazo told investigators, "I really can't apologize for anything because I don't feel like we've done anything wrong. I don't, I honestly don't think the officers did anything wrong. The only thing I did wrong is to accept an interview that was going to be spliced and spun, um, and bring on all of this, um, fear."
She is referring to an interview she did with 9NEWS reporter Noel Brennan on June 6.
"If there is concern, it kind of sparks some curiosity for me. What are they concerned about if their only job is to ensure that there aren't drugs in the unit?" she told Brennan.
Investigators wrote, "Ms. Erazo reported 9NEWS cut her off mid-sentence as she went on to say, 'just because is (sic) sparks curiosity in me doesn't mean I'm going to enter without consent...we respect their wishes, it's their decision.' Ms. Erazo stated 'it never once crossed my mind that we were infringing on anybody's rights.'"
Here is the rest of her quote that was not used in the June 6 story: "If there is concern, it kind of sparks some curiosity for me. What are they concerned about if their only job is to ensure that there aren't drugs in the unit? I absolutely respect every resident there, and if they're really uncomfortable with it, I respect that."
Investigators also found that the K9 officers did not file a report relating to May 10 searches until June 9. That was three days after our original story and two days after Chief Butler told 9NEWS that his officers did nothing wrong.
"We made it quite clear that we needed permission to go in," Butler said on June 7.
When the city announced the settlement last month, Butler admitted he spoke out of turn.
"I was wrong when I made those comments to you," he said.
When investigators asked K9 officer Marquardt what he would do differently, knowing what he knows now, Marquardt said, "I would do the written consent…So you don't have to worry about people coming back saying that we didn't do something."
9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark called the Longmont Housing Authority to speak with executive director Michael Reis, but Reis was not in today. He asked the person who answered the phone if he could talk with Erazo and was told that she no longer worked with the Longmont Housing Authority.
On Nov. 21, 9NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger saw Erazo at a staff meeting where employees were getting a crash course in civics, covering topics related to the warrantless searches. Reis confirmed with us at the time that Erazo's title was "Director of Operations."
And even before that meeting, a person answering the phone when Kyle called told him that Erazo was not working at the Housing Authority.
So, in short: Kyle was told she's out, Marshall saw her at a staff meeting, then Kyle was told she was out.