WATCH: Cop enters Home without Warrant to Pursue Man over Seat Belt Violation
Fort Myers police claim they had the right to chase a man inside a home without a warrant and threaten to taser him Friday night because someone in his party was not wearing a seat belt while sitting in the passenger seat of a car.
They claim the right to enter the home exists under the "hot pursuit" doctrine, which allows cops to enter a home without a warrant if they are chasing a suspect.
However, a closer inspection of the doctrine states there are only two conditions that would allow cops to suspend the Fourth Amendment during a pursuit; one, to prevent the destruction of evidence, and two, to prevent the loss of life or serious injury.
Neither was the case Friday night when several Fort Myers cops pulled a group of Black people over after they had pulled into the front yard of a house. One man walked into the home only to be chased by a cop with a taser who entered the home without a warrant to bring him back outside.
Video recorded that night shows the cops did not inform the friends that they were being pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt until several minutes after they had ordered everybody on the ground. It was almost an afterthought. Or maybe a fabrication.
It most definitely was overkill but Fort Myers police released a statement attempting to justify their actions, calling the attempt to issue a traffic citation a "high stress situation" requiring the use of several officers from the Group Violence Intervention Unit, which is supposed to be arresting gangbangers instead of enforcing minor traffic violations.
Police said they cited a man named Keenan Carter for not wearing a seatbelt. They also seized a gun in his possession which he claimed is legally registered in Georgia and has the right to carry in Florida under the states' reciprocity laws.
According to the statement by Fort Myers police:
On July 3, 2020 at approximately 2314 hours a traffic stop was initiated by our Group Violence Intervention Unit, mid-block of Verona Street for a minor traffic infraction.A cA traffic stop is the lawful detention of an individual in a vehicle temporarily for an investigative purpose. Also to dispel any confusion, law enforcement officers may detain the passengers of a vehicle for the reasonable duration of a traffic stop
The traffic stop began with emergency lights being activated, at which time the suspect vehicle pulled into a residential driveway located on Verona Street. To be clear during a traffic stop, by pulling into a residential address this does not void the lawful requirements to comply with the lawful stop.
Once stopped, one of the four occupants, a rear passenger, fled the scene on foot and was not located.
A second passenger then began walking away toward a residence. A clearly uniformed officer then gave loud clear verbal commands to stop with negative result. After numerous commands to comply the Officer followed the subject into the front door of the residence never losing sight and escorted the subject back out to the investigation. This falls under “fresh pursuit” It shall also include the pursuit of a person who has violated a county or municipal ordinance or chapter 316 or has committed a misdemeanor.
The subject who did not comply with lawful orders was issued an arrest and court date accordingly. A firearm was recovered in the vehicle and submitted into Fort Myers Police safe keeping until it is properly claimed by owning party.
Mr Carter who was non-compliant with orders to stay in the vehicle, which also can be a safety issue, was cited for not wearing a seat belt. Carter claims to be the owner of the firearm however this was not able to be confirmed and he can claim and resume possession on Monday during normal business hours as Georgia does not respond after hours.
What should have been a simple encounter with possibly just a verbal warning issued unfortunately was more due to non-compliance. Traffic stops are frequent however safety is the number one priority for all parties involved.
Ultimately the Officers of the Fort Myers Police Department are professional and courteous. This incident was not as described or depicted on social media.
However, Carter claims in a Facebook post that his cousin was already inside the house when police pulled up, barking orders and threatening violence. And a Ring video shows his cousin calmly walking inside, not appearing as if he is trying to get away from anybody when a cop named Chris Wuthrich chased after him, threatening to taser him.
Look when you guys hit your lights, we were already parked and out the car. By the time anyone saw your blue and red lights “pulling us over” I was at my sister screen door, meaning I was out the car, my cousins were out the car. Look at YOUR camera when you got out your unmarked car and said “get down, get back in the car, get over here now, my cousin hands are up LOOK he is out the car door already closed. I walk back and say loud and clear “what happened”
I’m just so upset with this bogus statement. You guys claiming it’s a “fresh pursuit” but who is suspected of committing, or having committed, a misdemeanor or felony. Wait, that’s the seat belt violation when you guys flashed your flashlight inside of the moving vehicle blinding my cousin while he was driving is that when you saw me without my seatbelt, (you didn’t mention that in your statement) that’s the misdemeanor or felony? The seatbelt violation?
Also clear on your body cam and my sisters ring, you walked clearly inside my sister home didn’t say this is the police I’m coming in didn’t knock or anything taser drawn (you didn’t not mention that in your statement) you walked. Right in but you also told my family members you did not go inside the house.
I feel you guys saw African Americans males in the neighborhood that we were in at that time of night you stereotyped us and you wanted to have something so bad on us like drugs or something.
All you guys got was my firearm which I have a license to carry and Georgia (which is where I live) has reciprocity with Florida. Than you say “Georgia don’t pick up after hours” wow
Run the gun serial number it would have told you it belong to me.
Carter's initial Facebook post of the incident can be read below:
Last night about 11:15pm my cousins and I were PARKED, out of the vehicle and proceeded to walk inside my sister house. While walking into the home a FMPD officer parked his unmarked truck behind the car, no reds or blues were not on and told us to get in the car, My cousin walked in the house. A gun was pointed at me and the police said stop or you going to get tased” yes pointed a Gun. I followed every direction the officer asked, he told me to get on the ground I did, while on the ground he said “get on the ground” I stated “I’m on the ground how do you want me” than I was detained. Officer Chris Wuthrich 529 walked into my sister home didn’t knock, didn’t say he was FMPD opened the house door taser draw and walked in the house. And videos were being recorded from every way. Even clearly seeing officer Chris Wuthrich walk inside the house. Y’all can see me following directions. Breona Tayler was murder by a police officer who entered her home with no warrant and didn’t not identify themself.
According to a legal dictionary, hot pursuit (or "fresh pursuit" as described by Fort Myers police) can only be used is exigent circumstances exist which was not the case here, according to their own narrative.
Hot pursuit is one such exigent circumstance. It usually applies when the police are pursuing a suspected felon into private premises or have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed on private premises. The Supreme Court stated that "'hot pursuit' means some sort of a chase, but it need not be an extended hue and cry 'in and about the public streets'" (United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38, 96 S. Ct. 2406, 49 L. Ed. 2d 300 ). Hot pursuit also applies when the lives of police officers or others are in danger. Thus, the Court has recognized two specific conditions that justify warrantless searches under the rule of hot pursuit: the need to circumvent the destruction of evidence, and the need to prevent the loss of life or serious injury.
Watch an edited video above which includes footage from a police body camera as well as footage from the Ring camera and the smartphone used by one of the friends. Watch all the videos in their entirety here and here.