SHOREWOOD, IL — DEA agents rooted through a Shorewood woman's garbage and stormed her home in an early morning raid after spotting her shopping at an indoor garden center they had been staking out.
Angela Kirking, 46, was rousted from her bed about 5 a.m. on Oct. 11. Four DEA agents and five Shorewood cops were in her Ranchwood Drive home, according to a police report.
"They had a gun pointed at me when they said, 'Are there any illegal substances in your house?'" Kirking recalled.
There reportedly was—police said they found 9.3 grams of marijuana in Kirking's "art room."
The agents and police also reportedly found and seized a "plant portion" from Kirking's patio, three glass pipes and a bag, three scales, two books on how to grow marijuana, a computer, and a zip drive.
The raid on Kirking's house marked the culmination of a nearly month-long investigation that involved federal agents searching through her garbage and comparing her electric bill to those of a couple neighbors. In the end, police and prosecutors apparently believed they had enough to charge Kirking with nothing more than a pair of misdemeanors.
Kirking's attorney, Jeff Tomczak, is now fighting to get the case thrown out. He claims the feds and Shorewood cops never should have been granted the search warrant that allowed them into Kirking's home in the first place.
"The lady comes under investigation simply because she shopped at a particular store," Tomczak said during a Friday hearing in front of Will County Judge Bennett Braun.
That store was Midwest Hydroganics on Renwick Road in Crest Hill.
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In a complaint for a search warrant, a DEA agent wrote that he was staking out Midwest Hydroganics on Sept. 17 because his previous surveillance there "led to the arrests of subjects for production of cannabis sativa plants and possession of cannabis."
During his stakeout, the agent noticed Kirking "exit the front door of the store carrying a green plastic bag containing unknown items."
Kirking said the green plastic bag held organic fertilizer she bought for her hybrid hibiscus She needs to use organic fertilizer, she explained, because she eats the plant and does not want to be poisoned.
The agent tailed Kirking from Midwest Hydroganics back to her place in Shorewood and later got his hands on her electric bills from February 2013 through September. Compared to two of her neighbors, the bills were "consistently higher," according to the complaint for the search warrant.
During Friday's hearing, Judge Braun interjected that ComEd routinely notifies him that his electric bills are higher than average. Still, the agent maintained in the complaint, he knew through his "experience (that) persons involved in the cultivation of marijuana utilize a large supply of electricity to cultivate the plants during the growing cycles."
Three weeks later, at 4:15 in the morning, two DEA agents "conducted an investigative garbage pull" at Kirking's residence, the complaint said. After going through her trash, the agents reportedly found "multiple green plant stems" that smelled strongly of "green cannabis."
Three days after that the agents and police pulled Kirking's husband over as he left for work at 4:50 a.m., according to police reports. The cops and agents informed the husband of the search warrant and asked him to open his door to them, a report said. Kirking said her terrier was sleeping on her bed with her when the agents woke her up.
Judge Braun said he would decide whether to toss the search warrant—and effectively kill the case—later this month.
Even after her ordeal—and the possibility she might be spied on by the feds—Kirking, an artist who does face-painting at fairs, said she would like to shop at Midwest Hydroganics again.
"I'd love to," she said. "I'd love to send all my friends there to see how far they take this."