Sheriff on attack victims' arrest: 'the average individual can connect the dots'
GONZALES - The sheriff of Ascension Parish responded Friday to concerns crime victims were arrested on drug charges after reporting a home invasion earlier this week.
Clay and Dana Cowart, both 45, and their daughter, Tayler, 18, were charged with various drug offenses after Dana Cowart called for help, authorities said. Dana Cowart told Ascension Parish Sheriff's deputies she was attacked as she walked out of her home when she left for work around 7:30 in the morning, forced back inside to empty the safe where cash and a gun were stolen.
Cowart said there were two attackers who appeared to be older teenagers or men in their early 20s. She told investigators, the thieves could have been friends of her daughter because she heard familiar voices and they asked for "Tayler."
Deputies said while investigating the attack, they smelled marijuana in the family home on Old Perkins Place Avenue and upon further investigation found marijuana residue, two smoking pipes and a device used to grind marijuana for smoking.
On Facebook, the original WBRZ.com story produced a long thread of comments, many upset that victims of a crime had been arrested.
Users suggested the arrest and publication of the information after a press release was issued on the situation by the sheriff's office was why people don't trust authorities. Others compared drug arrests to money grabs or a waste of taxpayer resources.
But, Sheriff Jeff Wiley suggested people should wait to judge.
"It's a little bit extraordinary because they are the 'quote, unquote' victims here," the sheriff said in a phone conversation with WBRZ Friday, a day after the department issued the press release about the Cowart's arrest. The family was arrested Wednesday.
"This case is not indicative of a random home invasion," he said, seeming to insinuate that there was an obvious reason the home was targeted. Thursday night, a department spokesperson said it was too early in the investigation to speculate if marijuana may have been the reason.
But, the sheriff added "when people read the totality of this case… the average individual can connect the dots."
The attackers are still wanted, but the sheriff said deputies are pursuing leads.
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