Medical marijuana murder: Pierce County Sheriff raids victim of deadly crow bar attack

Medical marijuana patient murdered in Washington State

Updated March 16 @11PM -- In addition to the CannaCare robbery/shooting that happened this morning, last week saw one of the most horrific events our community has perhaps ever seen. The CDC was tracking the cases of Michael Shane Howard, a medical marijuana patient who had been constantly harassed by the Pierce County Sheriff's Office -- repeatedly stopped, arrested, incarcerated. His friend posted bond, and he was arrested again, and she couldn't afford another bond, so he simply sat in jail for a while. That's how we found out about his case a couple months ago.

March 9 robbery attempt

Around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, March 9, thieves armed with a crow bar attempted to break in to Mike's medical marijuana grow in a shed on his property in Orting, Washington. Hearing something suspicious, Mike armed himself with a can of pepper spray, went outside to investigate, and was beaten with a crow bar to the head. His house mate Renee found him barely conscious, and called 911.

In the small town of Orting, Washington, Mike was well-known to law enforcement as a medical marijuana activist. Orting Police and Pierce County Sheriff's deputies would occasionally pull him over, maybe search his vehicle, and occasionally arrest him. Suffice it to say that Mike was not popular with the Pierce County police.

When police arrived, Mike could remember little about his attacker, so they began to question him about his medical marijuana grow. Mike refused to answer these questions, and police showed little sympathy, suggesting that the medics would probably just bandage his head and leave him at the house.

Howard was rushed to the hospital by paramedics. His condition worsened, and he eventually fell into a coma.

Raid executed by Pierce County Sheriff's Office

Two days after the attack, as Howard lay dying, the police called his housemate, Renee, and asked when she was going to go visit him in the hospital. When Renee visited the hospital, Pierce County Sheriff's detectives began a raid on the home, apparently still believing his injuries minor. They found 150 cannabis plants, most of them in early stages of growth, and "booby trap" security devices used by Howard to protect his medical cannabis grow from intruders.

According to the original report from Renee, Pierce County Sheriff's basically lured her out of the house while Mike was in the hospital, then proceeded to raid the place:

When the cops came to the sceen he told them that they were trying to get his medical marijuana, they started asking questions about how many plants were there and then told him that the medics would probably just put a big bandage on his forehead and leave him at the house. Needless to say it was way more serious then that.

Yesterday around one of the police called me pretending to care about how he was doing then asked me when I going to go visit him in the hospital.

I went to the hospital and got a call from a friend saying that my house was being raided by the pierce county sheriffs so I rushed home when I got there the search warrant was not even there yet.I looked at it when they did bring it and they were already at my house about 20 min before it had been signed.

They put me in handcuffs and threw me in the back of the cop car for about 2 1/2 hours they told me it was because I live in the home even the grow was out in a shed. They took his plants and equip. its so sickening that they are more worried about his meds then finding out who attacked him. His skull was bashed by a crow bar it seems like they are not even trying to find out who did it.

From CannaCare forum post

Media effort by Pierce County Sheriff's Office

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office is now responding to media reporters saying that Mike wasn't a patient, didn't have the proper paperwork, had more than the "allowed limit" of 15 plants, etc. as they try to cover up a pretty severe error in judgment on their part -- an error that seems based entirely on their pre-existing disdain for this member of their community because he was open about being a medical marijuana patient in a small Washington town. Note what non-specific details Pierce County is presenting to media about the case:

"This is extraordinary circumstances."

"It's very complicated."

Howard was convicted of third-degree assault for pepper-spraying a power company employee on his property.

Howard was incarcerated in the Pierce County Jail for a month and a half.

"We've been working on the case it just continues to get more complicated ..."

King 5 News has footage of the 10x10 grow room. Pierce County Sheriff's Office is telling media that Michael had 150 plants like it's a HUGE grow op -- growing in a tiny ten-foot shed. They are saying that this case has "extraordinary circumstances" and that it is "very complicated." There are lies and half truths and some people might be scared because they're involved with pot, the Sheriff's office says. "It just continues to get more complicated."

What is clear is that someone showed up at Mike Howard's house at 4 a.m. last Tuesday morning, tried to break into his tiny grow room, and when he went to investigate, they beat him in the head with a crow bar. Pierce County law enforcement, who have a history of harassing the victim, did not take the assault seriously, and began and investigation into Howard's medical marijuana grow. This led them to raid his home, taking all of his cannabis plants, as Mike Howard lied dying in a hospital bed.

All of that is "very complicated" to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, apparently.

A tragic first in Washington State

To our knowledge, the is the first medical marijuana related murder in Washington State. Steve Sarich from CannaCare was working to spread this terrible news -- which the media here hasn't picked up, in part because of the sheriff's office -- before he was shot in a home invasion robbery this morning.

Steve Sarich described the media work being done by the Pierce County sheriff's department to discredit the murdered medical marijuana patient, who had been harassed by the agency for years:

I did a TV interview with Q13 today and Renee will do the same tomorrow. It almost didn't happen. After the reporter talked to me the first time, her producer contacted the Pierce County Sheriff's office and he was told that Mike wasn't a legal patient. The reporter called me back and I informed her that I had copies of authorizations from TWO doctors for Mike (I was prepared for this). The producer called Pierce County back with that info and this time he was told that Mike was over his 15 plant limit. The reporter called me back and I told her that I could prove that Mike was legally allowed to have more than 15 plants. She called her producer back and he called Pierce County back.

From CannaCare forums.

Our condolences go out to Mike's family and friends.

Media reports

More photos below ...

More photos of Mike

Mike Howard was raided by Pierce County Sheriffs while in a coma

Mike Howard

Mike Howard

Mike on the phone

Press release