A helicopter swooping down and scanning the nearby Yakima River with men rappelling down on lines. That's what nervous residents in a Richland neighborhood say they witnessed Wednesday night.
RICHLAND, WA - A helicopter swooping down and scanning the nearby Yakima River with men rappelling down on lines. That's what nervous residents in a Richland neighborhood said they witnessed Wednesday night.
NBC Right Now got to the bottom of who these men were and what they were doing. The “men” were in fact officers. Multiple neighbors who live on Jones Road described the helicopter as scanning the river, hovering in close to one spot and then making its way out of the area.
As the helicopter came close to a family swimming, they claimed their son almost drowned from the helicopter wind gusts.
"They were just maybe 20 feet above us and it blew him right down underneath the water. I turned my head and looked at them and I made a gesture at them," explained Phillip Lindenburger. He went on to say it was a gesture involving a specific finger.
At the time Lindenburger had no idea who these men were.
"I mean he could have drowned. These people just laughed and smiled and waved."
It didn't take long for him to realize they were there for his plants. Specifically, the 12 medical marijuana plants he says he grows on the outskirts of his rented property.
The Richland man showed us that he even clearly posted a copy of his medical marijuana license on a nearby fence post. He says he's not a “pothead.” In fact, many people who know him don't even know he smokes marijuana to handle the pain of his liver cancer. He says his two sons know not to go near the plants and that he only smokes because it's the better alternative.
"I was addicted to pain killers cause they gave me anything I want. It just helps. I'm not addicted to pain killers no more."
We made dozens of phone calls to state and federal officials. NBC Right Now discovered the Drug Enforcement Agency raided the plants because they believe them to be on public lands. One plant was left behind. DEA officials tell us they just happened to miss it.
"They came in here and they pulled these plants. I don't care about them. When they left they smiled and waved and thought that it was pretty funny. It ain't funny to me."
Lindenburger was more upset when he thought his son could have been injured.
Washington State Patrol along with DEA agents work together on eradication raids. They tell NBC Right Now they acted within their jurisdiction under the federal government, which still defines marijuana as an illegal substance. While we're told they will not raid private property in Washington State without proper investigation, public lands are a different story.