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Rob With a Shotgun, Complain About 'Unreasonable' Search?

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By William Peacock, Esq. on April 05, 2013 5:13 PM

From the court's description of Kevin Daws, you'd think he was Omar from "The Wire." On a cold winter evening in rural Henderson County, Tennessee, Daws broke into an acquaintance's house by jamming a shotgun barrel through the window, then robbed that person at gunpoint. He then went to another acquaintance's house and tried to stash his shotgun there. Both acquaintances were greeted with death threats if they contacted the police.

Of course, both did contact the police. One of the responding officers had been a prison guard while Daws served time for robbing a gas station attendant at gunpoint. Both officers were aware of an incident in which Daws was reported to have discharged a firearm in his front yard. He also had other unspecified weapons violations.

Like we said, Omar.

Knowing his history, and two armed confrontations within the past couple of hours, the cops loaded up on body armor and approached Daws' rural residence with caution. They overheard his accomplice on the phone stating that Daws was inside and that they had done something stupid and were probably going to jail. (Indeed, young man.)

The police slipped in, found Daws asleep inside, and did a protective sweep of the house, which turned up the shotgun. As a result, Daws pled guilty to federal gun possession charges, conditioned on his right to appeal the suppression motion.

See all that history above? Daws maintains that his door-to-door armed encounters, his history of popping off rounds in his yard, and his prior armed robbery conviction didn't amount to exigent circumstances, as he had never shot a gun at a person. Under his theory, the cops would've had to wait for him to fire first before sneaking in and catching him asleep on the couch. (Or they could've gotten a warrant. Either way would've worked for him.)

Alas, the Sixth Circuit disagreed. The immediate risk of injury to the police (from an armed felon awaking from a deep slumber) or danger to others inside or outside the home (after all, he did threaten to kill his two acquaintances mere hours before the police showed up) justifies the warrantless search.

Waiting for a warrant could have given him time to prepare to shoot at approaching officers or time to escape into the rural wilderness surrounding his home, allowing him to go on a bloodthirsty quest for revenge against his two snitching friends.

Maybe it's just us (and the Sixth Circuit), but entering surreptitiously, securing the premises, and arresting the suspect sure seems like a more reasonable course of action.

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