Targets of FBI searches related to Mesa County election security breach say they were excessive, law enforcement dispute that

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Signs that direct voters to a ballot drop box outside the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s offices in Grand Junction on Thursday, August 26, 2021.

Allegations continue to fly over the FBI search of four homes in Mesa and Garfield counties earlier this week, related to the security breach of Mesa county’s Dominion voting machines. 

Among the search locations were the homes of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and Sherronna Bishop, a staunch supporter of Peters’ and a former campaign manager for Rep. Lauren Boebert.

Peters is under a federal investigation over allegations that she allowed an unauthorized person to make copies of the county’s election equipment hard drives in late May. That data was eventually released on the internet by people promoting unproven claims the 2020 election was stolen.

A group raising money for Peters’ legal defense has characterized the FBI searches as raids and said in a statement they were conducted by “large teams of heavily armed federal agents, using a battering ram to break down doors.”

On Thursday, Bishop told CPR News that FBI agents and a Mesa County investigator came to her home early Tuesday morning. She had just returned from dropping one of her children off at school, but her youngest children, ages 8 and 10, were still inside the house.

“Between the time they started banging and I got to the door was maybe a minute? Hard to say because it was a very scary situation,” said Bishop in a text message to CPR. “I put my children in their room and called my attorney. Walked toward the door, and then they busted it open.”

Bishop said she was handcuffed, “while they trampled through my home terrifying my family. My daughter was pulled around by her hoodie by one of the FBI agents. I asked repeatedly what this was about and was denied an answer while they ‘cleared’ my home.”

However, the Colorado Attorney General’s office disagrees with that assertion and said the searches were executed in “a professional and lawful manner.”

“We dispute how some have characterized the law enforcement action carried out earlier this week in Mesa and Garfield Counties,” read a statement provided by the office. 

An earlier statement from Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Attorney General Phil Weiser provided more detail about the search of Peters’ home in particular.  

“At no time was force used on Ms. Peters or her home. Ms. Peters was allowed to move around her home and fix herself breakfast while agents gathered items before departing,” said a joint release from their offices. 

Rubinstein and Weiser said they wanted to clear up inaccuracies about what occurred.

“We will continue to conduct a thorough investigation based on facts and the law, including using proper law enforcement tools such as the judicially authorized search that was executed properly in this matter.”

No criminal charges have been filed related to the election equipment security breach and the investigation is ongoing.