Local civil rights crusader Dave Picray is crying foul after Benton County sheriff's deputies broke down his door to serve a search warrant in a misdemeanor traffic case.
ADAIR VILLAGE — Local civil rights crusader Dave Picray is crying foul after Benton County sheriff's deputies broke down his door to serve a search warrant in a misdemeanor traffic case.
Law enforcement authorities say the charges against Picray are serious, that they followed proper procedure and that they forced entry only because Picray wouldn't come to the door.
Picray, 61, faces charges of reckless driving and reckless endangering stemming from a "road rage" incident that occurred on Highway 99W on the afternoon of May 27.
The other driver in the case, an 18-year-old man whom police have not publicly identified, claims that Picray tailgated him as they were driving south into town, took pictures of him and nearly caused an accident by coming to a stop in the middle of the highway near Conifer Boulevard.
Picray contends that he was the victim. He said that he documented what he termed the 18-year-old driver's dangerous and aggressive behavior using a digital videorecorder and a still camera that Picray had in his truck. That was the evidence deputies were looking for at his Adair Village duplex Thursday evening.
The search warrant covers a wide range of electronic gear and storage media, as well as printed photos. According to property receipts left with Picray, deputies seized CDs, photos, a cell phone, two computers, two cameras, a minicassette recorder and two "recording devices."
According to Picray, he was in the bathroom about 8:45 p.m. last Thursday when he heard pounding on his front door. As he was going to answer it, he said, about eight Benton County sheriff's deputies smashed in the door with a battering ram.
"There they were with guns drawn," he said. "Then they cuffed my hands behind my back and sat me down on the couch."
Sheriff Diana Simpson defended the deputies' actions.
"When we serve a search warrant, we make every effort to get the person to answer the door and let us in," she said. "If the person named in the search warrant won't answer the door, we are authorized to make entry."
Simpson added that deputies used two video cameras to document how they conducted the search.
"I'm confident our deputies handled that search warrant in a professional and ethical manner," she said.
Picray said he thinks the deputies were "fishing for felonies" as retaliation for his activism.
Picray has a long history of confrontations with local law enforcement for what he calls "standing up for my rights." He has also filed numerous formal complaints against police officers, sheriff's deputies and prosecutors.
"It's pure vindictive; that's all it is," Picray said. "They want to get me, and that's why they use this traffic complaint to arrest me and bust down my damn door."
District Attorney John Haroldson denied that Picray was being targeted or harassed by law enforcement and that the search was entirely appropriate.
He stressed that even though the charges in the case are misdemeanors, the allegations against Picray are not minor. If it's true, as the other driver claims, that Picray came to a sudden stop in the middle of a busy highway, that was a reckless act that put people's lives in danger.
"It's a dangerous situation anytime you do that," Haroldson said. "It's even more dangerous when it's on Highway 99 during rush hour."
Picray said he's confident that his video and still photos of the incident will show that he was in the right and that he would gladly have given them to authorities if they had simply asked.
"But they never asked me," he said. "Instead, my door is shattered."
Haroldson countered that it's standard procedure in Oregon to use a search warrant to seize evidence in criminal cases, whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony.
"It's appropriate to use a search warrant to gather evidence if you've got probable cause to believe a crime occurred," he said. "The only way we can be sure we're going to get it is if we go ahead and get a search warrant. Otherwise, if we just go and ask (the suspect) for it, then he's got the opportunity to destroy the evidence."