OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- Oakland police raided an Oakland establishment that calls itself a church, seizing drugs and money.
"They got a lot of product," said Dave Hodges, leader of the Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants. "They got altogether in a range of about $200,000 worth of stuff. It was mainly mushroom and cannabis product and a little bit of cash."
Surveillance video and photos Hodges posted on Instagram show the August 13 drug raid in progress. The video shows Oakland police officers forcing the front door open. With the help of firefighters using heavy equipment, police broke open a safe and seized valuables, drugs and cash.
The property is on 10th Avenue in East Oakland. Hodges believes police went overboard during their raid.
"Not only did they have well over 20 Oakland PD officers out there but they had 8 firefighters to come break into our safe," Hodges said. "Really, I'm surprised they didn't burn down the building. In some of the video, you can actually see sparks bouncing off toilet paper and paper towels."
Oakland police say this was an illegal business that was selling hallucinogenic mushrooms and cannabis and that officers conducted the raid based on a neighbor's complaint.
"The Alameda County Health Department contacted OPD regarding the illegal business creating respiratory health issues for children who live within a certain distance," said Oakland Police Capt. Rendell Wingate.
Wingate did not say whether police believe it is a legitimate house of worship. He said that will be up to the courts to decide.
"We have several churches in the city of Oakland and they are non-profit and not known to sell cannabis or mushrooms," Wingate said. "This is the first for-profit religious establishment I've seen in my 28 years as an Oakland cop."
Hodges insists it is a real church with more than 20,000 followers. Hodges said the cannabis and magic mushrooms are an integral part of the religious experience.
"The core concept of what we believe is our ancient ancestors came across these mushrooms and, being a hungry monkey who finds a bunch of these mushrooms, they were likely to eat a bunch of them. And, if you eat a lot of these mushrooms, you can have some very intense experiences that can only be described as spiritual visions," Hodges said.
No arrests were made.
"Criminal charges are a decision for the district attorney," Wingate said. "They do not have this case yet."
Hodges said he plans to sue to try to resolve the case and reclaim his property and cash.
"We are preparing a civil lawsuit against OPD for violating our First Amendment rights based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," Hodges said.
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