SHERIDAN, Ore. -- A Yamhill County woman wants McMinnville Police to change their ways. She said they ruined her property while arresting an alleged child abuser over the weekend. Then they left her wondering who was responsible.
"It's not about money. It's about the lack of notification,” said Elana Andrew.
She wasn't on her property in Sheridan when the raid happened early Saturday morning. Officers in an Oregon State Police armored vehicle rammed a metal gate and plowed down a wooden fence to gain access to a neighbor’s property.
Police were going after Michael Abo, 34, a Yamhill police reserve officer accused of abusing his girlfriend’s four year-old son.
It took Andrew filing a police report of her own with the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office to figure out the damage was from a McMinnville Police tactical operation. McMinnville Police were the lead agency, working with OSP, because the sheriff’s office couldn’t arrest one of its own. Andrew said the abuse case is tragic.
"I don't really mind them trespassing to effect an arrest. I think that that's important that they be able to do that,” said Andrew, “No one took any time whatsoever the next day to find out who owned the gate or who owned the fence.
"There's a house there. This is the house I own. And to me, it would be reasonable to assume that whoever owns this fence would live in that house,” said Andrew.
She contacted McMinnville police about the damage. Captain Matt Scales responded to her on Tuesday afternoon with an email.
He wrote, “Elana, we assumed the fence was owned by Abo as this was the information we had. We had no idea who owned the gate, so notification to the property owner in regards to that specific piece of property would have been impossible in our opinion."
Andrew wrote back, “Sure seems like you had a duty to find out. You could have started by knocking at the foot door of the house you come to after entering the gate.”
Scales responded, “I understand you(r) side of things, and I wish you nothing but the best…Have a great evening!”
Andrew said Scaled did provide her with contact information for the Oregon State Police, and OSP has agreed to pay for the damages. However, Andrews is concerned that McMinnville Police will destroy someone else’s property in the future and not take responsibility for it.
KATU News contacted Captain Scales via email on Tuesday night to ask about the damage. He responded:
“I think I misused the term impossible in my email to the property owner and later stated in an email to her that I understood her position.
"Later in the day today I left a telephone message with Mrs. Andrew where I stated our department should have done a better job of notifying the property owner, and would effort in the future to do so. I told her that if the Oregon State Police could not reimbursed her for the damaged gate, our City would certainly ensure she did not have to pay for the damage.
"In this specific situation the SWAT team operation took place at roughly 2:30 in the morning and unfortunately we did not follow through in contacting her. We will make a concerted effort in the future to ensure the property owner is contacted no matter why time of the night.”
It’s still unclear if a written policy exists about how McMinnville Police handle damage caused to people’s property by police. Captain Scales wrote, “We would normally notify the property owner, in this instance it was oversight and we acknowledge that.”
Captain Scales also said if OSP, for some reason, won’t pay for the damages to Andrew’s fence and gate that the City of McMinnville would pick up the tab.
Andrew said, more than anything, she wants the public to know that incidents like this can happen. She also wants McMinnville Police to develop a written policy about property damage during police activities if a policy doesn't already exist.