Premont Store Owner Says Clerks were Wrongfully Arrested

A convenience store owner in Premont says the police chief there had no right to arrest two of her clerks and put them in county jail earlier this week.

She also says the chief had no right to confiscate a bunch of smoking products from her store, but the Police Chief Rick Herrera says those products are synthetic marijuana, and that will not be tolerated in that city.

A city ordinance defining "restricted smoking material" and prohibiting the use, purchase, possession and sale of those materials it lists products such as K-2, Sage, Spice and Kush, among others. The question is, does what the chief confiscated from the store fall under the ordinance?

Herrera says yes. On Thursday, at the Premont Police Department, he showed a bag full of smoking products that he confiscated from the Junior's Quikstop store. He said he took close to 700 cigarillos of all kinds and flavors, including french grape, pineapple and Kush. He also took Cyclones, Zigzags and a disposable hookah.

It was earlier this week that the chief arrested store clerks Virginia Garza and Carol Hernandez, and charged them with a Class B misdemeanor for the manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance; but the clerks and the owner of Junior's Quikstop in Premont say the chief arrested the women for something that is not against the law, and that he is confusing potpourri for Kush.

The owner said she purchased the cigarillos at Sam's Club in Corpus Christi, and even had the receipts.

"These cigars are predominantly natural tobacco, with non-tobacco ingredients added, meaning it takes you to the tobacco but then it doesn't have the tobacco," Herrera said. "So then what is it? And why is the Kush label on these products?"

"This is the reason he found, Kush cigarillos, to arrest my employees and put them through the embarrassment of taking them to jail? That's not right," said Marissa Luera, owner of Juniors Quikstop. "And I am very upset with what's going on, and I'm going to have to take this to court."

Luera said the chief did not have a search warrant, and therefore he had no right to search her store and confiscate the products. The chief said he had probable cause because he asked the store clerks if they sell Kush, and they said yes. The clerks deny that account.

Luera does have a lawyer and plans on suing the police department. The county attorney says she is aware of the case, but has not yet spoke with the Chief Herrera. A call to the mayor was not returned.


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