By Jesse O’Neill
(MAINNEWS) – A group of squatters linked to a car theft ring returned to the Washington state property they illegally colonized during the pandemic last week after they were removed by a SWAT team.
Some 30 officers took in the Wednesday raid of the Lynnwood, Wash., home and found drugs and guns on the property, along with 52 cars – some of them stolen, according to KIRO 7 News.
Five people were arrested after cops corralled a group of squatters who had been living there in “unhealthy and unstable conditions” in the “short term and long term” and had “no ownership” of the home, according to police.
The owner and neighbors reportedly said the “criminals” had been illegally living on the property since the state and federal government placed a moratorium on evictions as COVID-19 first spread across the country.
“They took over the house and we couldn’t collect a dollar of rent, and have a mortgage,” Laleh Kashani, the owner of the property, told the outlet.
Squatters take over a Lynnwood property. Neighbors say a slew of crimes finally led to a raid yesterday.
52 car were on the land. Also guns, drugs.
5 arrested (of about a dozen people).
But get this – today the homeowner says the squatters cut off new locks and are back. pic.twitter.com/w8EhwxeZko
— Deedee Sun (@DeedeeKIRO7) February 17, 2023
The suspects illegally reclaimed the property after the raid, even though the locks had been changed.
“We changed the locks and they even broke that. So they should at least be arrested for breaking in, and they didn’t do that,” Kashani said.
Lieutenant David Hayes of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office told Fox New Digital that it was “largely on the property owner” to prevent the suspects from returning.
“The sheriff’s office will respond to the property owners complaints that people returned and if we have the ability to legally move people off the property we will,” Hayes said.
“What it may take for the property owner is to go and get a court order to move people out of there and oftentimes that’s necessary.”
The lieutenant said he had no “personal knowledge” that the suspects had broken back into the property, but acknowledged to the outlet that the homeowner is in a “very bad situation.”
“We don’t know who has a legal right to be on the property and who doesn’t,” Hayes continued. “And that’s really kind of an unfortunate thing and it’s not unique to Washington state from what I understand but when it comes down to the Landlord Tenant Act and the civil aspect of tenancy or residency, law enforcement can’t just walk out to a property and say, yes, you belong here and you don’t.”
Kashani says the continued situation had her considering leaving the state, as frustration reached a boiling point.
“I literally cry,” she said. “I’m going to give up, I’m going to lose my house. Whatever we owe on it, let the bank take it.”