LITTLE ROCK – Police on a drug raid burst into a suburban home during a child's birthday party, startling children who had not yet eaten their cake.
Amid wails from children and a few parents — and a phone ringing incessantly with prospective drug buyers — officers arrested a pregnant woman and accused her of selling marijuana (search) from the house, which had been under surveillance for weeks.
Shannon Hills Police Chief Richard Friend, who led the raid, found parents about to light candles on a cake adorned with green and white cartoon characters and a big "2" on top.
"The birthday paper was covering two tables pushed together, the kids were up in high-chairs eating pizza and the cake was just about to be lit and cut when we kicked the party off a little early," Friend said. "We got them something they wish they could return."
Friend said Tuesday that his officers decided to act on a standing search warrant when they saw cars pull up to the house. They didn't know the cars carried at least six children along with five adults.
"We didn't know children were present and when I entered the house, the first thing I saw was the birthday table and cake, so I yelled for everyone to put away their guns," Friend said. "You could see they had a nightmare-come-true. Everyone just froze and looked at me. The parents started crying and then the kids started crying."
Elizabeth Leah Sauls, 21, was hosting her niece's second birthday party at the time of Friday evening's raid. She was allegedly smoking marijuana in the master bedroom and continuing to sell pot out of the house as the police moved in. Friend said she received 35 calls requesting the drug in the short time that police were there.
"A 72-year-old grandmother drove one man to the residence while we were there and dropped him off so he could buy some," Friend said. "We barely had time to conduct interviews because the phone kept ringing with people wanting to buy narcotics."
Sauls was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, delivery of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. But she was released without bond because the jail was full, Friend said.
She appealed to the police that she was just selling the marijuana to pay for diapers and food for her 1-year-old, but police said they had been gathering evidence for weeks, making undercover purchases from the home, arresting buyers leaving the home and finding $860 and a pair of scales in the house.
Friend said Tuesday he was turning the case over to Saline County Prosecutor Robert Herzfeld (search) and was confident the prosecutor would take a hard stance against Sauls for allegedly selling narcotics within 1,000 feet of a church and a city park.
"One thing that should happen is someone needs to contact the Department of Human Services (search)" for an investigation of possible negligence, Herzfeld said Tuesday. "Ideally that would be done at the time of the arrest."
Friend said he was waiting to contact DHS until after Herzfeld had the case file. The 2-year-old birthday girl and Sauls' 1-year-old were turned over to their grandmother, who was at the party, Friend said.
Friend, a former undercover narcotics agent, said the other parents claimed they didn't know what was going on when they came to the party and no charges were filed against any of them, although Friend said he intended to report the names of all the children and parents to DHS and let the agency and Herzfeld decide how to handle them.
"We have plenty of cases of people providing drugs in diaper bags around children, but at a birthday party? That's unusual," Herzfeld said.