Security footage of a Kansas law enforcement raid on a local newspaper office shows officers laughing and making jokes as they snapped photos of private passwords and removed computer towers.
In two clips, Marion County Police officers are seen walking around the empty Marion County Record while at least two employees were forced to wait outside during the 90-minute search—which has sparked outrage and is cloaked in mystery.
One officer is seen removing a computer tower from a desk, while another walks away with a different drive. The footage is from one of two raids executed against the local newspaper and its publisher and co-owner Eric Meyer. A third raid was executed on Friday at the home of Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel, Meyer told The Daily Beast on Monday.
Meyer previously added that the operation traumatized his 98-year-old mother, who died on Saturday afternoon after collapsing at her home.
“All the raids appeared to be simultaneous,” Meyer said, adding that police “wouldn’t complete them until the police chief himself was there. The chief went to the newspaper offices first, and officers were just standing at my mother’s house for two, three hours before the chief showed up.”
He added, “They showed up like the Gestapo.”
The security footage confirms Marion County Police Chief Gideon Cody was on the scene—and at one point, he and the officers discuss how best to remove the seized items, prompting one to joke that he was “not going to argue with the chief in front of him.”
“I’ll talk shit behind the chief’s back, just not to his face,” one officer says, making Cody and his colleagues laugh.
At the end of one video, officers are heard discussing going to the next location on their search warrant. In another image, an officer is seen reading a woman her rights, although she was never arrested or detained. Cody is seen leaning over a desk with his head in his hands as he watches the exchange.
Meyer told The Daily Beast the Record, which has a circulation of about 4,000, now does not have the reporting and publishing materials necessary to print its next edition. Court documents obtained by KSHB on Monday show that five computer towers, two cell phones, and an external hard drive, were taken from Meyers’ home and the newspaper office.
The chief did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but previously told The Daily Beast that he believes “when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated.”
Friday’s raids have prompted dozens of news organizations to condemn the police department and question the legality of the search warrant. Meyer previously told The Daily Beast that the raid came after a confidential source leaked sensitive documents to the newspaper about local restaurateur Kari Newell.
Meyer said the source provided evidence that Newell had been convicted of DUI and was driving without a license—which could threaten her liquor license and catering business.
The publisher said the newspaper decided not to publish a story about Newell after questioning the motivations of the source. Instead, he said, he alerted the police to the information.
Newell told CNN that the Record unlawfully used her credentials to gain information about her that was only available to authorities. But she admitted she was still “flabbergasted” to learn of Friday’s raid, and said she had no idea it was happening.
In the search warrant for the Marion County Record raid, the police reference an investigation into unlawful acts concerning a computer and identity theft. It allowed officers to seize a host of material, including digital communications, servers, computer software, items containing passwords or access codes, and all correspondence and documents “pertaining to Kari Newell.”
KSHB on Monday obtained the application for the warrant—which reads identical to the warrant itself. Usually, an application provides more details into the investigation, or evidence that supports the need to exercise the warrant.
In a Sunday letter to Cody, attorneys representing the Marion County Record slammed the raid and urged law enforcement to delay examining the seized property pending a court hearing on whether the search was legally sound.
“Your personal decision to treat the local newspaper as a drug cartel or a street gang offends the constitutional protections the founding fathers gave the free press,” attorney Bernie Rhodes wrote in the letter reviewed by The Daily Beast. “I can assure you that the Record will take every step to obtain relief for the damages your heavy-handed actions have already caused my client.”
Editors Note: This story has been updated to correct the locations of three Friday raids. The three raids occurred at the newspaper office, the home of Meyer and his mother, and the home of vice mayor Ruth Herbel.