BUENA PARK — With less than a week to go before he faces city officials in court, the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park is claiming that police violated his rights during a late-night raid.
Pastor Wiley S. Drake, charged with a series of criminal misdemeanors for illegally operating a homeless shelter at his church, said police came onto his property without a search warrant "in the dark of night" Tuesday and threatened to arrest him.
But a police spokesman said it didn't quite happen that way.
It's the latest twist in a yearlong dispute between Drake, the police and other city officials.
The most recent controversy dates back to June 25, when Warren Dale Clewell, a homeless man living at the church, allowed himself to be interviewed by television reporters as he joined thousands of other Southern Baptists in criticizing the Walt Disney Co. for offering entertainment that some consider offensive and anti-family.
An Irvine detective who saw the interview recognized Clewell, 47, as a former convict who served time for rape and other sexual assaults committed in the late 1970s. The detective alerted Buena Park police, who discovered that Clewell had not registered as a high-risk sex offender as required by law, said Sgt. Ken Coovert of the Buena Park department.
Clewell turned himself in and late Tuesday night was accompanied by police as he returned to the church to retrieve his belongings, Coovert said.
But Drake and his attorney, Jon Alexander, said the police visit was more intrusive.
"As I arrived on the property, about a dozen police were invading, batons in hand, our property," said Drake. "The people who live there were scared, fearful of what was going to happen. . . . I see it as an unconstitutional civil-rights violation, lacking decency, being done in the dark of night under threat of arrest."
Alexander also said the police had no right to enter the property.
Coovert said Drake's charges are "ridiculous." Clewell was a resident of the church and had every right to bring police on the property to collect his things, he said. The other residents, far from being terrified, were upset to find a rapist had been living in their midst, he added.
Drake said he had no idea that Clewell, who held down part-time jobs and attended college, had a criminal record.