A man changed nationwide police policy by resisting intimidation from the local police after he uncovered they had set up illegal surveillance on his property.
We spoke in depth with the man, Buck Addams (formerly Dion Nordick) [link no longer available] who found two trail cams watching his house that not only contained images of his comings and goings, but hundreds of evidence photos and crime scenes. Instead of turning the equipment back over to police, he obtained a lawyer. The result of the case was a law requiring Canadian authorities to change how they managed surveillance evidence.
Near the end of 2010, Addams moved into a house in, Grand Forks, British Columbia, that had been abandoned. The property owner, a friend of his, cut him a deal: If he got the property back to livable conditions, then he could live there for reduced rent. They previous tenant was a suspected drug dealer and left the place trashed. Addams moved in and went from paying $1200 rent to $700.
Six months later, he turned the place around. His handiwork didn't go unnoticed by his girlfriend's father, the mayor, and he was invited to come up for a weekend to help do work on a property the father owned. His work didn't go unnoticed by police either.
"When I get [back home] there's a warrant on the door with a RCMP business card," he said. Without going in the house he showed it to his girlfriend and she suggested he call a lawyer before he did anything else. The warrant was for things like timers, tanks and beakers. Through the window of the house he could see it had been ransacked.
It was almost an hour before he went inside. Every drawer in the house had been opened and dumped on the floor, yet they hadn't taken anything related to the warrant. All of his graffiti stencils were gone along with $850 worth of spray paint.
Addams who also does graphic design for local bands had a collection of World War II books that he used for drawing ideas. These books were laid across his couch, along with a technical manual for an AK-47. His collection of Transformers, which he had displayed on a shelf in their humanoid form, had been searched, some put back in their vehicle forms.
He admits he was "freaked out" when he called the number on the business card. No one would give him any answers about why his place has been tossed. The sergeant in charge of the case blew him off.
Newspaper stories later that week told of how police had solved a major case, declaring they had caught "the Grand Forks graffiti artist" and telling people to file claims if their businesses had been vandalized using his stencils. Addams however said he wasn't doing stencils around Grand Forks, but mostly making them for other people. And this still did not explain why they entered his house with a warrant looking for equipment to make drugs.
Through friends around town and at various newspapers, he found out that the police were looking to bust the previous tenant of the house. They thought he'd moved back in.
"Mail was going to [the house] and the power was back on, so they thought it was him," Addams said.
He still hadn't been arrested, but he was worried about what he could be charged with. The police still refused to give him any information about the case, nor were they willing to return his art supplies. He called the police sergeant again to try and work out a deal, suggesting he would teach kids art at a local center, in exchange for dropping any charges. It didn't work.
Later, his girlfriend called.
"I've been thinking a lot about you and how screwed over you're feeling and maybe you should come stay with me for the night. I'd rather have you hanging out here then have to worry about you," he recalls her saying.
His house was down a road surrounded by trees that terminates at a cul-de-sac. It's a rural area, and it's common to see wildlife on the tree line so he though it was the reflection of a deer's eyes the when he saw a blue-green flash up ahead as they pulled away.
"I told her to slow down. It looked like Wall-E was up there. As I got closer I see that it's a Bushnell hunting camera," he said. His first thought was that someone mistook him for the former tenant and was keeping surveillance on him to eventually rob him.
He saw a similar flash when he had been walking his dog behind the house a few nights before. He had her drive back to the house to the spot where he let the dog out. Strapped to a tree was a second camera.
"We took them to her house and we plunked the [SD cards] in there and the first one … had pictures of my friends [coming over], reporters from the newspapers [from when the graffiti story first broke], me taking the dog out for a leak, having a smoke. A deer. A bird," he said.
It also revealed who had been watching.
"The first couple frames were the police attaching it," he said. The images are time-stamped and suggest the cameras were installed June 14th at three in the morning -- the day after the raid on his house.