Witness to Alleged DEA Excessive Force at The Purple Zone Speaks Out
May 21, 2014 at 10:45 PM CDT - Updated July 20 at 10:55 PM
By Alicia Neaves
ALPINE - It's the latest break in The Purple Zone raid controversy in Alpine. It all involves allegations that DEA agents used excessive force on the owner's sister. The owner retracted her allegations of the alleged attack. The DEA says it never happened. But in a new twist, a witness has come forward.
Sul Ross geology student Nicholas Branson lives in a home behind The Purple Zone. He went to run some errands on the morning of Wednesday, May 7. When he returned around 10:30 a.m., he saw numerous law enforcement vehicles out front.
"I just figured it didn't have anything to do with me and I tried to walk back into my house and that's when they told me I couldn't go back there," Branson said.
He says DEA agents broke his gate and entered his home. He claims the motive was because they thought his residence was part of The Purple Zone. Nicholas says the only business he does with Ilana Lipsen, the owner of The Purple Zone, is buy Red Bulls on the way to class.
"They told me that was kind of the cost of living where I live. When I asked to see a warrant he said I didn't need to see any [expletive] warrant," Branson said.
Nicholas claims agents didn't have a search warrant until almost two hours later.
"It's signed at 11:58 a.m. My neighbor was woken up shortly before 10 o'clock with them entering my home," Branson said.
He says he was forced to wait out front on the sidewalk near his mailbox, when he saw the alleged excessive force take place against Lipsen's sister, Arielle, in front of a tree next door on his neighbor's property.
"[The DEA agent] walked up and tried to grab her by the throat and when she tried to step back he threw her to the ground, jumped on top of her, and put a rifle butt in her neck. Then claims she assaulted him," Branson said.
Nicholas says a shotgun and hard drives were seized from his residence during the process.
Just days after these allegations first surfaced by The Purple Zone owner, Ilana Lipsen, she sent out a letter to NewsWest 9 retracting every single word.
In a statement by the Public Information Officer of the DEA, El Paso Division, they say, "As we have maintained throughout and has now been confirmed by Ms. Lipsen, DEA acted professionally at all times during the execution of the warrant. The allegations against DEA have been recanted and Ms. Lipsen has apologized to DEA and other law enforcement involved for her false allegations."