A group of recently-evicted residents of a downtown home beset by drug raids returned to retrieve their belongings Friday. They may have committed a crime in the process — a man representing the property’s owner had already boarded the home up and told them to stay away.
At noon Friday, the Empire witnessed one of the residents kick through the plywood-covered doorway before he and others pulled belongings out of the house.
The three men, who were later joined by a woman, declined to comment on the situation. One said, “We’re really stressed out right now. You’re trying to do your job, let us do ours.” Others used more profane language.
The men pulled various furniture out of the house, piling everything in a U-Haul truck in the driveway. One of the men claimed to have paperwork and permission to enter the home.
Breffni Place Properties owns the building; Dave D’amato has power of attorney for the company and traveled to Juneau this week to evict the home’s residents, who hadn’t been paying rent. The Empire was on the phone with D’amato when the unidentified man broke into the house.
“Hang up and call the police … they’re breaking in, you’re watching a crime right now,” D’amato said. D’amato then contacted JPD, who arrived on scene five minutes later.
Juneau Police Department didn’t make an arrest at the home, located at 423 Fourth St., but they did handcuff one visibly agitated man in the driveway, releasing him after he calmed down.
Charges could be forthcoming as the investigation continues, responding officer Chris Gifford said.
Breffni Place Properties, owned by Kathleen Barrett, could press charges. Last week, they had received a court order, called a writ of assistance, to keep any former residents away from the house. D’amato disputes that the group of former residents had legal permission to enter the home.
On Wednesday, JPD had assisted D’amato in informing the residents of their eviction. JPD and D’amato “basically told people in there they were being evicted and had to leave,” JPD Sergeant Krag Campbell said.
Reached by phone on Friday, D’amato said he traveled to Juneau this week to evict the 423 Fourth Street’s residents and board up its windows and doors. He said he gave residents of the property two five-hour periods to remove their belongings on Wednesday and Thursday.
D’amato also installed concrete barriers to keep people from parking at the Bergmann Hotel, which Breffni Properties also owns. Breffni Properties owns the house next to 423 Fourth St. and has boarded that house up as well.
“Every access point where bricks and mortar could enable people who are doing drugs or who are engaging in other bad or illegal activity has now been boarded up by Breffni Place Properties,” D’amato said.
On Thursday, D’amato said he was contacted by former residents, who told him they had received legal permission from James Barrett, the son of Breffni Place Properties owner Kathleen Barrett, to reenter the property and claim their remaining belongings.
“Breffni Place Properties has nothing to do with James Barrett,” D’amato said. “He was letting people in and doing it in a fraudulent way.”
James Barrett couldn’t be reached for comment. Kathleen Barrett lives in Seattle and has battled cancer for seven years, D’amato said.
Three buildings owned by Breffni Place Properties, each of them rental properties, have been subject to three police raids in the past six weeks. Neighbors had complained about suspected drug use and prostitution at one of the homes.
On Aug. 4, JPD had served a search warrant at 423 Fourth St. Assisted by JPD, the FBI raided the neighboring home at 427 Fourth St. on Aug. 9.
On Aug. 29, JPD raided James Barrett’s residence a few doors down at 401 Harris St. One of those raids resulted in federal drug conspiracy charges as two people allegedly shipped oxycodone and methamphetamine to 427 Fourth Street by mail.
D’amato stressed that he did everything he could to offer the residents of 423 Fourth St. a chance to get their belongings, but he had to leave town and board the buildings up.
He said he tried to shutter the rental buildings about a year and a half ago but was convinced by local social service agencies that it would add to the burden placed on the community by growing the homeless population.
D’amato said it’s been frustrating to have Breffni Place Properties linked with crime.
“I probably don’t need to say this to a sentient being, but bricks and mortar don’t cause drug addicts,” D’amato said.