Deputies who entered window without warrant, shot dogs, won’t be charged

Deputies entered home through a window, without a warrant, shot the residents’ dogs. No charges will be filed.

Via Kevin Robinson at the Pensacola News Journal:

The Escambia County deputies who shot two dogs after entering a Warrington home without a search warrant will not face criminal charges, the State Attorney’s Office said Monday.

The State Attorney’s Office review stems from an incident on the night of Aug. 4, when Deputies Mikel Lee and Romain Brissett climbed through an open window at a residence on Flynn Drive searching for a suspect in an armed disturbance.

Once inside, Lee shot the two dogs of residents Cristina Moses and Travis Nicholas because one of the animals reportedly attempted to bite him. One of the dogs, a pit bull named Gracie, had to be euthanized, and Rocky, a 3-year-old mastiff, recovered from gunshot wounds.

Moses and Nicholas were detained, then released when a Sheriff’s Office supervisor arrived at the scene. The suspect in the armed disturbance was not found inside the home.

Moses and Nicholas told the News Journal after the incident that the dogs did not bite an officer. Moses said she woke up and found officers in the house. The couple said they were pushed to the floor by deputies who placed their boots on their backs and arms.

“The cops threw Cristina on the ground, cussing,’’ Nicholas said during the interview.

After completing the initial phases of an internal investigation, Sheriff’s Office general counsel Gerald Champagne sent a memorandum to the State Attorney’s Office dated Nov. 6 asking it to determine if criminal charges against Lee and Brissett were appropriate.

Sheriff David Morgan said reprimanding the deputies was not sufficient and that he ordered an internal investigation and review by the State Attorney’s Office, the memorandum said.

Memorandums from Sgt. Buddy NeSmith to Lee and Brissett dated Sept. 5 said the deputies were being investigated for policy violations including negligence, failure to follow orders, unbecoming conduct, use of profanity and possible criminal violations.

Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said Monday that criminal charges will not be filed against the deputies because their actions were not premeditated.

“We closed our review with insufficient evidence to establish that there was an intent to commit any crime, and we referred it back to the Sheriff’s Office,” he said.

The News Journal obtained written reprimands sent to Lee and Brissett dated Aug. 4, 2013.

The letters of reprimand said that they had no probable cause or exigent circumstance to justify them entering the home. They also stated that Lee and Brissett’s “lack of knowledge of the Florida Legal Guidelines caused harm to another person’s property (the home owner’s dogs) and exposed yourself and the agency to civil liability.”

The deputies also were faulted for not calling a supervisor before entering the home.

Law enforcement officers can lawfully enter a home without a search warrant if the escape of a suspect, the destruction of evidence or the injury of a person is imminent, according to Florida legal guidelines.

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sena Maddison said no official sanctions have been placed on Lee and Brissett at this time.

“Right now, it’s still an ongoing investigation,” she said.

*Florida Constitution –  Article 1, Section 12:  “Searches and seizures – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and against the unreasonable interception of private communications by any means, shall not be violated. No warrant shall be issued except upon probable cause, supported by affidavit, particularly describing the place or places to be searched, the person or persons, thing or things to be seized, the communication to be intercepted, and the nature of evidence to be obtained. This right shall be construed in conformity with the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. Articles or information obtained in violation of this right shall not be admissible in evidence if such articles or information would be inadmissible under decisions of the United States Supreme Court construing the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution. History.—Am. H.J.R. 31-H, 1982; adopted 1982.”

*U.S. Constitution, Amendment IV:  Searches and Seizures – “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”