John Melvin Barnes

Suspect John Melvin Barnes is shown knocking on the door of an apartment shortly before his arrest.

This may be a case of being in the right place at the right time. But then again, that depends on with whom you talk.

At about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5, while Missouri Valley Police Chief Ed Murray was in front of his house playing with the family dog, he observed a silver van pull into the driveway shared with the neighboring apartment complex.

The vehicle continued down the driveway, the driver apparently unaware that it was not a through street, Murray said.

“The driver then backed up and stopped within 10 feet of me and was looking at the apartment complex,” Murray added. “The driver didn't seem concerned at all that I was standing there. I obviously knew that something wasn't right.”

Though he was not in uniform, Murray had his credentials and was not concerned for his safety. Still he secured his dog inside his house.

“When I returned back out into the garage, the male driver had pulled into the parking lot and exited his vehicle and went to an apartment, which I knew (received) a lot of continuous, in-and-out traffic of people not gainfully employed, which is consistent with drug-related activity,” he stated. “As I stood in my driveway, the male subject and I exchanged looks several times, and he seemed annoyed to have his photograph taken.

According to Murray, the man continued knocking on the apartment door, talking out loud, and he appeared to be agitated.

“To my disbelief, this subject then called the occupant of this particular apartment and had her on speaker. I was able to hear her tell this subject that she wasn't home and advised him of her correct location,” Murray said. “I further heard her tell this subject, ‘You better not get (expletive) caught!’”

The male subject was observed walking back to the van to leave. Murray observed that the driver was having issues consistent with impairment.

He called Assistant Chief Lee Lange and reported the driver’s direction of travel. Lange happened to be in the vicinity and initiated a traffic stop in the CHI Health Missouri Valley parking lot.

Following the traffic stop, John Melvin Barnes, 57, of Missouri Valley was arrested on the following charges: operating while under the influence – second offense, possession of methamphetamine, unlawful possession of prescription medication, and driving without insurance.

“I would like to advise everyone that this case is extremely rare, and even I deal with this across from my residence as well. The police department is very aware of houses like this in town, but it is difficult for us to deal with because, due to the Fourth Amendment, we cannot search any house without probable cause and a search warrant,” Murray said. “These procedural rights are actually intended to protect the innocent.”

Murray further advises all residents who have similar concerns to take similar precautions.

“Have cameras installed that show every angle of your residence. If there's continuous in and out traffic, document the vehicles as they come and go. Most importantly, contact your local police department and advise them of the activity,” he concluded.

Murray reminds everyone that all persons are presumed innocent, until proven guilty in a court of law.

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