There must be something strange about the water these days in the great state of Georgia. Right on the heels of the the woman who was thrown into jail over dried SpaghettiOs , news has come out about an overzealous drug task force raid against a retired man over his okra plants. When it comes to strange tales Georgia ranks right up there with the much larger California, Florida and Texas as national leaders and in the “Peach State” it always seems to involve the cops.
According to the website of Atlanta’s WSB-TV in a story entitled “Okra mistaken for pot in man’s garden”:
A Cartersville man is upset after he said investigators mistook a garden full of okra for marijuana plants.
The man growing the popular Southern food said a helicopter woke him up Wednesday and then he had deputies show up at his door.
"I was scared actually, at first, because I didn't know what was happening,” said homeowner Dwayne Perry.
All he noticed was that there was a chopper sitting unusually low over his house, then Bartow County deputies and a K-9 unit appeared at his doorstep in minutes.
"They were strapped to the gills,” Perry said.
It turned out, that helicopter was from the Governor's Task Force for drug suppression and they were out looking for domestic cannabis plants and spotted the tree and plants.
"Instead, it's okra and maybe a bush on the end of the house,” Perry said.
Channel 2’s Carl Willis called the Georgia State Patrol, who operates the task force, for an explanation. They sent an evidence photo.
"We've not been able to identify it as of yet. But it did have quite a number of characteristics that were similar to a cannabis plant,” said Georgia State Patrol Capt. Kermit Stokes.
Perry said his plants had five leaves, not seven like on the cannabis plant. He said a mistake like this shouldn't happen.
"Here I am, at home and retired and you know I do the right thing,” Perry said. “Then they come to my house strapped with weapons for no reason. It ain't right."
The authorities apologized on the scene and again when Willis called.
"If we disturbed them in any manner, that's not our intent. Our intent is to go out and do our job and do it to the best of our ability,” Stokes said.
But Perry said he doesn't think those words go far enough.
"The more I thought about it, what could have happened? Anything could have happened,” Perry said.
Perry said he's still getting calls about all of the deputy vehicles that responded at his home. He fears his reputation has been damaged.
Mr. Perry should be thankful that the heavily-armed raiders did not go in after midnight with guns blazing because the "damage" to his reputation would have been the least of his worries. He should be counting his blessings that he isn't black.
Recent Georgia stories in addition to the SpaghettiOs incident include a SWAT raid where a flash grenade was thrown into a toddler’s crib and an Atlanta cop murdering and burning the body of a woman he met online for sex. Now the pile of indignities includes the daring okra plant raid.
Just one more sign that the war on drugs is a long-running and expensive catastrophe. When you have cops who are incapable of telling the difference between SpaghettiO's and methamphetamine and okra and marijuana there is a huge underlying problem with the system itself.