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DEA investigates tense encounter between agent and Ruskin homeowner over loud music

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 18:37:58-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — A tense exchange over loud music on News Year’s Eve leads a Ruskin family to file a complaint against a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

It’s before midnight on NYE and James Downs answers the door. The encounter was all caught on Ring surveillance footage.

"Is this your party out there?" asks the unknown woman about the music coming from inside the home.

"Yeah," responds Downs.

"Turn it down, turn it down," she says on the video as she shows him a badge. "It’s the last time I come here. Yeah, turn it down."

"Ok, thank you," said Downs.

"It’s the last time I come here. Turn it down," she repeats.

Downs doesn’t recognize her.

In the video, he asks: "You know it's New Year's right?"

"Yeah I do," she said.

"What is that?" Downs asked as he pointed toward her badge.

"That’s a DEA badge," she told him.

The DEA confirms to ABC Action News that the woman is, in fact, an undercover agent not on the job at the time.

“She knows she has no authority to be doing that with that badge. She should know that. She knows that," said James Downs in an interview.

James Downs' wife, Cristina Downs, was disturbed by the exchange she later saw on video.

“An abuse of power that way is completely unacceptable," she said, "I felt like it was very unethical and so unprofessional and such a terrible way to represent that agency.”

Sergeant Alfred Van Duyne of Plant City PD agrees.

“If it were me I would be looking at it that it reflects badly on my agency as well as myself," said Van Duyne.

He is not a part of the DEA nor involved in this incident but after reviewing the video he believes this agent didn’t use her badge appropriately.

“I don’t think this instance of a seemingly simple and harmless noise complaint rose to the level of her getting involved and causing an undue level of tension for her agency," he said.

Meanwhile, the Downs filed a complaint with DEA and the inspector general’s office, which oversees government accountability.

A DEA spokeswoman says the agency is looking into the complaint and the video.

“I want her [the agent] to understand what she did was wrong. Plain and simple," said Downs.

"If I find any drugs in here I’ll let you know," Downs told the agent in the last seconds of their on-camera exchange.

"Ok, so I’ll tell you right now Hillsborough [County Sheriff’s Office] is coming," she told him.

A deputy from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office did end up paying them a visit and cordially asked them to turn it down, and they did.

The couple says the next time the music is too loud, whether agent or neighbor, just ask nicely.