Sammamish, WA – A group of squatters took over a multimillion-dollar home and filled it with guns and drugs, but police say currently laws blocked them from being able to stop the squatters when they returned to the house to clear out property they claimed was theirs.
“Somehow these squatters who are living in this residence have at least as much rights as the homeowner. And that’s very difficult for any of us to understand,” Sammamish Police Chief Dan Pingrey told KIRO. “It could happen again somewhere else and this is where people in communities really need to be diligent.”
Chief Pingrey said the owners of the home live overseas and purchased the residence for their son to live in while he was attending college, The News Tribune reported.
Due to the pandemic, the son remained overseas with his parents, leaving the home empty.
In the interim, the owners lined up locals to routinely check on the residence in their stead.
But when someone went to the home on May 14, they stumbled upon a cache of guns, drugs, and cash, KIRO reported.
Sammamish police responded to the home and ended up seizing 12 firearms, over 15,000 fentanyl pills, bulletproof vests, heroin, steroids, methamphetamine, and more than $40,000 in cash, The News Tribune reported.
“The amount of guns, drugs, etcetera that were confiscated out of that place are not for personal use or for any good reason,” Chief Pingrey told KIRO.
As officers were inside the home analyzing how to proceed with the investigation, “an unlicensed motorcycle showed up with two people on it,” the chief explained.
Neighbors confirmed that the two individuals were the people who had broken into the home and had been staying there for about a month, KIRO reported.
Police arrested the suspects on burglary charges, but they were back out of jail again within days.
The squatters then gathered up a mob of people and headed back to the residence, KIRO reported.
“After they were out of jail, we had a large group trying to get back into the house,” Chief Pingrey confirmed. “No one was supposed to be there. The homeowners were not allowing anyone to stay there.”
The squatters demanded to be let in so they could gather up belongings they claimed belonged to them, The News Tribune reported.
Chief Pingrey said he spoke with local attorneys and prosecutors, only to learn that current laws tie law enforcement’s hands in such situations, according to KIRO.
Police had no choice but to conduct a “civil standby” while the group hauled items out of the home and into a U-Haul over the course of the next five hours.
“We were not allowed to go in there with them and had to allow them to take this property out,” Chief Pingrey said. “The person who had been illegally living there [was able] to come in and get what they stated was their property.”
A neighbor took photos of some of the items, including an ATM and a garage filled with appliances, KIRO reported.
“I totally recognize how frustrating it is for the neighborhood and it’s just as frustrating for us to be honest with you,” the chief told KIRO.
One of the caretakers changed the locks on the home after the mob cleared out, but that still failed to deter the persistent trespassers, The News Tribune reported.
On May 22, two women broke into the home to take more items from inside, Chief Pingrey said.
They were arrested on burglary charges and then released, The News Tribune reported.