Following a drug bust which resulted in officers entering the wrong home, Marshall County Sheriff Eddie McGuire said the department takes full responsibility for the mistake and has made changes in protocol which will hopefully ensure it never happens again.
McGuire said the lead detective in the case, Jody Cash, who is also listed on the search warrant, was reprimanded, noting Cash feels terribly about the incident. He said the command staff implemented additional levels of redundancy to the protocol for seeking approval before forcibly entering a home. He said the other officers involved were not reprimanded because they were following orders.
Detectives and deputies with the Marshall County Sheriff's Office, as well as a Kentucky State Police trooper, believed they were entering the home of a suspected drug dealer on July 16 at 1331 Dogtown Road in Benton when they walked in an unlocked door with guns drawn and ordered everyone to freeze. But they stopped one driveway short at the next door neighbor's home and found a 14-year-old boy asleep on the couch with the rest of the family out back. During the explanation of the search warrant is when they learned they had gone to the wrong home.
MCSO's officers mistakenly entered 1311 Dogtown Road where the Nix family resides. Steven Nix recalled seeing a KSP trooper first and said his son awakened from a nap to police pointing guns at him. He compared it to what he'd seen on television, never expecting something like that to happen in his own home.
Nix said both of his children, more than a week after the incident, were still showing signs that it's affecting them. He and his wife are looking into finding someone who can help the children, he said.
"There's been a lot of lost sleep and my daughter is constantly locking doors," he said. "We're trying to move forward, let time pass and be patient and hope the kids get past things eventually."
Nix said he didn't believe it was a mistake the sheriff's office could afford to make, but also understands they were trying to do their job.
McGuire said after realizing the mistake, the officers went next door to the home of John Gay, 53, which was their intended target.
Following execution of the search warrant, Gay was charged with enhancement trafficking in a controlled substance 3rd degree, 1st offense, a Class D felony, illegal possession of a legend drug and controlled substance prescription not in original container. Officers seized from his home a glock model 17, 9mm handgun with three magazines, a cell phone and a bottle which contained seven suspected methocarbamol pills (a muscle relaxant).
According to police documents, detectives with the MCSO received an anonymous tip that Gay was trafficking in prescription controlled substances, specifically hydrocodone but also other controlled substances. Drug detectives surveilled the property for several days following and eventually made contact with a man who they followed from Gay's house to a gas station, where he claimed he had been tasked with selling narcotics pills for $50.
The search warrant states officers were looking for items used in the illegal trafficking of prescription controlled substances including but not limited to bottles, plastic bags, cell phones, money, papers, documents related to the sale of prescription controlled substances and any and all devices used to keep records of drug transactions or to facilitate the use or transfer of illegal narcotics.
Gay was scheduled to appear in Marshall District Court July 24 but according to court documents, called and said he was unable to come because weighs more than 550 pounds and "hasn't left his house."
Capt. Tim Reynolds blamed adrenaline and tunnel vision as the main factors leading to the entry of the wrong home. He said Cash had planned two searches in one day, lining them up to take place back-to-back so one couldn't warn the other before officers were able to arrive. He said the first search warrant was executed without a snag and once the property was secured, the team of officers raced to Gay's home to execute the final search warrant.
Because the color of the siding on the house was similar and because the truck in the driveway was almost identical in make and color, officers turned into the driveway before Gay's.
"Adrenaline kicked in and tunnel vision, and the siding and the truck, and he thought that was it and pulled in. It's unacceptable but understandable," he said. "We told the Nix family if the kids are traumatized, we'll assist however we can. We understand that when you drive a nail in a board and then pull it back out, the hole is still there. We want to make it right and we're trying in any way we can."