s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Man hiding in closet arrested at suspected Petaluma drug house

Petaluma police Monday arrested the suspected kingpin of a notorious east Petaluma drug operation hiding in a closet of his 86-year-old mother’s home, huddled under luggage and clothing.

Residents of the otherwise peaceful 1600 block of Weaverly Drive are hopeful that the arrest of 54-year-old Kyle Richardson coupled with a series of recent court actions will put an end to years of turmoil in the neighborhood. In the past five years, the home has racked up 776 calls for service, with police logging 45 narcotics-related arrests, according to city records. Police have fielded 186 calls for service this year alone and residents say the historically blight-ridden house has been a neighborhood eyesore.

The latest arrest comes on the heels of a July 31 court action declaring the home a public nuisance. A judge ordered that drug activity cease and the home be closed and placed under the court’s custody for a year. Kyle Richardson, his sister and mother are on the hook for at least $65,000 in penalties stemming from the court’s decision.

The order also granted police the ability to search the home as necessary, which led to the 7:40 a.m. arrest of Richardson Monday, Petaluma Police Lt. Brian Miller said.

Police found three people inside the home when they arrived for a routine search, including Richardson’s mother and sister, who told police Richardson wasn’t present, he said. Two court orders issued in May barred Richardson from entering the property.

“We had a team clear the house and do a safety sweep,” Miller said. “We were told no one else was there … ultimately, we found (Kyle) in a closet and gave him some commands. He acted like we still didn’t know he was there. He was non-responsive and so an officer ended up getting him out and uncovering him. There were no issues with use of force.”

Richardson allegedly had methamphetamine in his possession and police also found heroin in a family room, with various drug paraphernalia around the home, Miller said.

Richardson, who was also arrested in January and pleaded not guilty to a charge of operating a drug house, was booked into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of resisting arrest, violating the court order and several drug related charges. He’s being held in lieu of a $110,000 bail.

Richardson’s lawyer for the January case, Erik Bruce, declined to comment on Monday’s arrest, but said the home has been subject to an unfairly high level of scrutiny from neighbors and police.

“When I first looked at this case, it looked pretty bad,” Bruce said. “When I started to dig deeper, I started to hear things like the neighbors saying they can’t wait to get rid of the black guy.”

He said there’s no way to “cross check” city records, and the hefty portfolio of arrests “may not have been associated with the house.” He said Richardson was unaware of alleged drug activity or people under the influence of drugs in the home, and he has testimony from at least one guest admitting to using heroin without telling Richardson.

“When you invite people over, do you know what they do in the bathroom?” he said.

Meanwhile, neighbors have detailed a myriad of issues with the home in interviews and at public meetings, describing a life of habitual fear with constant foot traffic and police action, nefarious individuals loitering and used syringes, condoms and beer bottles discarded in families’ yards.

A neighbor who declined to be named for fear of reprisals was optimistic that the recent series of actions will restore order to the neighborhood.

“We’re looking forward to it being quiet with less traffic,” the neighbor said. “We’re looking forward to not having problems in the neighborhood and being comfortable and feeling safe.”

Eric Danly, the city’s attorney, said officials will work to ensure the neighborhood remains safe. The closure will take affect in about two weeks and will expire after a year, but Danly said it’s not yet clear what mechanisms exist to extend the closure if necessary or take other action.

“We’re going to work on it and follow through and make sure that the property’s condition doesn’t worsen and it’s safe there and the police department keeps an eye on it,” Danly said. “The drug house type problems there are believed to be connected with Kyle’s presence on the property and hopefully with the order and the closure that will stop … and provide immediate relief for neighbors.”

An Aug. 23 court date is set to decide if additional civil and criminal sanctions should be imposed for Richardson’s violation of the court orders. It’s currently unclear if Richardson’s mother, Arty, and sister, Kim, will face additional repercussions for harboring him in the home, Danly said.

Jonathan Matthews, a San Leandro-based civil and family attorney representing Arty and Kim Richardson said he plans to challenge the court’s decision to shutter the house and levy fines. He said alleged unlawful activity has stopped, despite city allegations, and the ruling is unfair to the family.

“This decision is leading to some pretty draconian penalties they can’t deal with,” Matthews said. “This is just a basic, working class family. They can’t afford the $60,000 in penalties that are potentially looming and a lot of those other fines the city has brought.”

In addition to drawing significant police resources, the home has racked up a litany of city code violations, with “substandard living conditions” inside and unsightly junk in the yards, which has included mattresses and garbage that led to rodent and insect infestations.

After repeated notices of violation and attempts by code enforcement officer Joe Garcia to work with the property owners to remedy the situation, the family was hit with steep penalties in 2015 and earlier this year. A failure to pay those fees or fix the issues led to more than $70,000 in fines, separate from those sought from the court ruling.

On Monday, Garcia noted that a backyard pool once teeming with fish had been emptied, raising concerns about a sinkhole emerging during the rainy season.

That issue will be likely addressed with a court-appointed representative who assumes control of the house, he said.

(Contact Hannah Beausang at hannah.beausang@arguscourier.com.)