A comical mishap turned into abject horror for one Buffalo Township couple when police mistakenly identified hibiscus plants growing in their backyard instead as marijuana crops.
The trouble started when Edward and Aubrey Cramer, both in their 60s, when an insurance agent visited their home filing a property damage claim. The agent took pictures of the couple’s hibiscus plants flowering in their backyard. Thinking they were marijuana, the agent sent them to the police.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the couple was soon visited by police with a search warrant. When Audrey Cramer opened the door, she said there were about a dozen cops “pointing assault-style rifles at her.”
Police handcuffed the Cramers and forced them into the back of a police car, where they waited four more than four hours while police turned their house upside down searching for marijuana. Throughout the incident, Audrey was allegedly wearing only underwear.
“I was not treated as though I was a human being, I was just something they were going to push aside,” Audrey Cramer told WPXI. “I asked them again if I could put pants on and he told me no and I had to stand out on the porch.”
Edward Cramer tried to point out to the officers that the plants were in fact hibiscus plants but they refused to listen. According to a lawsuit filed by the Cramers, Buffalo Township police Officer Jeffrey Sneddon and Sgt. Scott Hess claimed a level of expertise in identifying marijuana. Hess insisted they were marijuana.
“Sometimes I think they look for a crime where it doesn’t exist in order to justify their existence,” Edward Cramer said to WPXI.
Hess eventually admitted that he didn’t believe they were cannabis crops, but confiscated them anyways, labeling them, “tall, green, leafy, suspected marijuana plants.”
The Cramers were not charged. Instead the couple filed lawsuits against Buffalo Township and Nationwide Insurance, alleging excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.
Company spokesman wrote the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in an email, “Nationwide is not in a position to discuss the matter at this time.”