ATF Terrorizes Wrong Victim

On February 5, 1993, the ATF destroyed the home of Portland, Oregon, resident Janice Hart and terrorized her children for several hours in a case of mistaken identity.

Acting on an informant's tip that Janice Hart was Janice Harrell, a wanted person, ATF agents broke down Hart's door (later nailing it shut), shoved dishes to the floor, ripped clothes from hangers, and emptied drawers.

When Hart returned home from grocery shopping, she found the agents ransacking her house. They told her to shut up and forced her two children and a neighborhood friend to remain in the car (Hart's parents later picked them up).

ATF agents interrogated Hart in her basement for more than an hour.

"There's about eight of them down there and they're asking me over and over my name, my Social Security number, by birthdate. On and on, over and over. And I kept answering over and over. And I'm saying, What did I do? I don't have anything to hide," Hart said

Hart looked nothing like the ATF's picture of Harrell, and did not have the scars Harrell was known to have. When the ATF finally brought Hart to a Portland police station, the Portland police recognized from fingerprints that the ATF had the wrong person.

It took Hart and her ex-husband two days to clean the ATF's mess. Many damaged items had to be thrown out.

Source: March 7, 1993, editorial in the Portland Oregonian