Nicholas Branson is a 30 year old student at Sul Ross University, studying for a degree in geology. Now this student and former Eagle Scout is afraid for his future, for his career and even for his life.
Branson had the unfortunate fate of living adjacent to the Purple Zone, a business that was raided by local and federal agents on May 7, in Alpine, Texas. Branson witnessed the alleged attack on Arielle Lipsen, an act that was denied by the district attorney’s office.
Branson’s apartment is separate from the Purple Zone. It is a place to sleep and study and is close to campus. The only thing Branson states he has ever purchased from the Purple Zone is an occasional can of Red Bull when he stops over to pay his rent.
“My address is clearly labeled from the street, my apartment is 705 ½” Branson told Big Bend Courier during an interview. “There is a gate that separates my front door and yard from the Purple Zone, and I maintain a separate mail box.”
That did not stop federal agents May 7.
Branson had just finished a final exam at Sul Ross University and was headed back to his apartment. When he arrived, he noticed agents in front of his apartment and thought, ‘Oh they’re raiding the Purple Zone.’
But, it was not only the Purple Zone, the officers were also in Branson’s apartment. Officers refused to let Branson enter his apartment. Astounded at their presence in his home, he asked to see a warrant. Agents stated they had a warrant for the whole property, but still refused to show the warrant to Branson. The warrant, allegedly, did not list a physical address for the search and seizure. The Purple Zone address was on an affidavit that was not presented at the time.
The agents later admitted to Branson that they did not have a warrant for his address, and obtained one after the raid, based on frankincense incense seized from his apartment as well as the rocks he had collected to study. The agents allegedly entered Branson’s residence at 10am without a search warrant, and only afterwards were granted a warrant by the court.
One agent, realizing they did not have a warrant for that address, directed other agents to leave the premises. Then, according to Branson, another agent, the one who allegedly choked Arielle Lipsen, told Branson he had to leave. At that point, Branson asked to see a warrant.
“He said, ’I don’t need to show you a F——-g warrant.’”
Branson said, “I need to see a warrant, based on the fourth amendment…”
"The agent answered ‘Oh you’re a F——-g lawyer now. We can do this the easy way or the hard way and put his finger on the trigger of his M16. That’s when I just backed up,” Branson said.
I think it’s pretty clear that these DEA agents were out of control, and this entire raid needs to be investigated by an independent agency.