Alpine, Texas- The Drug Enforcement Agency, in coordination with Customs/Border Protection, began a nationwide synthetic drug takedown called “Project Synergy Phase II” serving 200 search warrants in 29 states across the country on Wednesday, May 7.
One of the warrants served during the course of the operation was on the Purple Zone in Alpine, Texas.
During the execution of the warrant, Ariel Lipsen, the sister of the owner of the smoke shop, claims a DEA agent struck her in the neck with the butt of his M-16 assault rifle without provocation.
According to Ilana Lipsen, owner of the Purple Zone, the incident took place when agents confronted her sister as she arrived to open the store on Wednesday morning.
“She pulled up and they said, ‘Do you have the key?’ and there’s not a key for my property,” Lipsen told News West 9. “We have smart locks and they’re all on codes. She said, ‘I don’t have a key, but I have…’ and at that exact moment, one of the officers said, ‘Break it down.’ It didn’t give her a chance to say, ‘I have a code.’”
Lipson said that agents entered the shop and immediately disconnected her surveillance cameras, then proceeded to confiscate hard drives, cell phones, cameras, computers and several firearms.
“The only information that I could get was they were looking for some type of document,” Lipsen said. “I said, ‘Well, could you please tell me what kind of document that you’re looking for and I can help you?’ But they wouldn’t give me any information.”
She went on to refute claims by the DEA that her shop was selling anything illegal or anything that could be classified as a synthetic drug.
According to Lipsen, her sister was talking to a DEA agent and watching the raid from the sidewalk when another agent approached and demanded she leave the area, prompting her to ask, “What are you going to do, shoot me?”
“He grabbed her by the shoulders and started roughhousing her,” Lipsen said. “My sister has never been arrested, has never had any other problems and she was terrified.”
Lipsen claims it was at this point that her sister flinched and the agent then became violent.
“At that moment, he took his foot and tripped her to get her off of her feet and have her down to the ground. One of her feet came flying up and accidentally hit him in the shin,” Lipsen said. “At that time he started saying, ‘Well now you’re assaulting a police officer.’ And he started attacking her more. He took the butt of his M-16 rifle and smashed it into her neck,” said Lipsen
Lipsen’s sister was then handcuffed.
“She was yelling, ‘Get off of me. You’re hurting me. You’re choking me.’ He had his hand around her neck as he was holding her face into the ground of the neighbors property,” Lipsen said.
A statement released by Brewster County District Attorney, Rod Ponton, said, “Numerous items of evidence, including ‘spice’ packages, firearms, and ammunition, were seized pursuant to warrants. When occupants refused entry to agents in possession of a valid warrant, the door was broken down, during which action one agent received an accidental cut, which resulted in the blood at the scene. Ariel Lipsen was arrested for assaulting one of the agents. Neither she nor any person involved was ‘beaten with the butt of an M-16’, or assaulted in any manner.”
The sisters are now awaiting trial on three first degree felony indictments for selling a controlled substance in a drug free zone, charges both sisters deny.
The DEA said due to the fact that this is a continuing investigation they can’t go into the details of the raid.