United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves United States District Judge
Louis Martin has moved to suppress all evidence recovered by
law enforcement during a warrantless search of his apartment
on June 12, 2017. [Record No. 12] A hearing was held on the
motion on February 21, 2018. [See Record Nos. 20-22]
The motion will be denied for the reasons that follow.
Lexington Police Department received a 911 call on June 12,
2017, stating that a woman was being held against her will
with a gun to her head. Officers Lusardi and Patterson were
dispatched to meet with the complainant, Tia Payne, at a
Speedway gas station and convenience store at the corner of
Liberty and New Circle Roads. The officers arrived at
approximately 7:25 p.m., and Payne arrived shortly
thereafter. The officers testified, and video evidence
confirms, that Payne was “clearly distraught.”
Payne advised officers that her friend, Sarah Williams, was
being held against her will by Defendant Louis Martin at 1749
Liberty Road, Apartment 45. Payne indicated several times
that Martin had assaulted Williams, who was pregnant, that
there was “blood everywhere, ” and that Ms.
Williams had broken bones, blood running down her face, and
was sitting in the back bedroom of the apartment on a
was concerned about Williams' safety and repeatedly asked
the officers for help. However, she continued to warn that if
the officers were not cautious, Martin could pose an
additional risk of danger to them and Williams. Payne told
the officers that Martin “did 18 years for murder and
got convicted.” She stated that she was only allowed to
leave the apartment to get food and that if she did not
return soon, or if Martin saw the officers approaching, he
would shoot the officers and/or Williams.
officers found Payne to be credible. Although Payne was
clearly distraught and upset, she did not appear to be
intoxicated, and the officers believed, based on their
observations and training, that she had a legitimate, true
fear for her friend's safety. Officer Patterson confirmed
that Martin lived at the address that Payne provided, and
that Martin had previous charges for violent crimes. The
officers also found that that Martin had been arrested a few
months earlier for assault based on allegations that he hit
another person in the head with the butt of a gun and had
held that person against her will. Officer Bereznak, who
later responded to the scene, stated that this bolstered the
credibility of Payne's story, since it appeared to
indicate a pattern of behavior or modus operandi.
Lusardi and Patterson met with Officers Bereznak, Burch,
Yoder, and Lieutenant Brotherton at the apartment complex.
Payne also came to the apartment complex, and consistently
repeated the same version of events she had related in her
911 call and in her conversation with Officers Lusardi and
Patterson. Officer Bereznak and Lieutenant Brotherton did not
observe any signs that Payne was intoxicated. Instead,
Officer Bereznak stated that he found the threat to be very
real and very credible.
Brotherton, the senior supervisor on the scene, decided that
it was necessary to make a relatively immediate tactical
entry into the apartment to protect the safety of the victim
inside as well as others living in the area. He determined
that there was not enough time to call in a rapid response
(or SWAT) team to carry out the entry, which likely would
have taken in excess of thirty to forty-five minutes, or to
seek a warrant, which could have taken considerably longer.
As a result, he arranged for the officers to make a tactical
entry into the apartment designed to avoid a shootout or
hostage situation. The plan was for Payne to enter the
apartment first with a brown paper bag that appeared to
contain food, and a cell phone that allowed her to stay in
contact with police. Then, after confirming that Martin and
Williams were still inside the apartment and the situation
was ongoing, Payne was to unlock the door to the apartment so
that the officers could make entry without the use of force.
unlocked the door and the officers executed the tactical
entry without discharging their weapons. They found Martin
seated on the couch with a loaded gun in plain view. Williams
was in the back bedroom as Payne had predicted. Although
Williams was “very uncooperative in relaying any
information” when questioned by officers, the officers
observed an open wound on her forehead which was severely
swollen. It appeared as though the wound was the result of
being struck with the handgun. Her face was already bruising
around one eye and swelling likely from broken facial bones.
Officer Bereznak and Lieutenant Brotherton testified that
they observed blood on the walls in the hallway and bedroom.
Additionally, officers discovered a bloody rag and an area on
the bed that was soaked with blood.
was immediately arrested, the firearm was seized, and
Williams was taken away to receive medical treatment. A
forensics unit then arrived and officers re-entered the
apartment and “took photos for evidence.” [Record
No. 12-2] Martin argues that the warrantless entry into his
apartment was an unconstitutional search in violation of the
Fourth Amendment, and was not justified by exigent
circumstances. [Record Nos. 12, 22] The United States
responds that the officers were justified in entering the
apartment because they reasonably believed that a person
inside had been seriously injured or threatened with such
injury and was in need of immediate aid. [Record No. 20]
After considering all evidence submitted, the Court concludes
that Martin is clearly wrong in his assertions. Exigent
circumstances justify the actions of the Lexington police
department whose officers performed admirably in responding
to - and defusing - a very dangerous situation.
police officer's entry into a home without a warrant is
presumptively unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.
Warrantless entries are permitted, however, where
‘exigent circumstances' exist.” Ewolski
v. City of Brunswick, 287 F.3d 492, 501 (6th Cir. 2002).
“One exigency obviating the requirement of a warrant is
the need to assist persons who are seriously injured or
threatened with such injury.” Brigham City, Utah v.
Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006) (citing Mincey v.
Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 392 (1978)). To satisfy the
exigent circumstances exception, the government “must
show that there was a risk of serious injury posed to the
officers or others that required swift action.”
United States v. Huffman, 461 F.3d 777, 783 (6th
Cir. 2006). “This ‘emergency aid exception'
does not depend on the officers' subjective intent or the
seriousness of any crime they are investigating when the
emergency arises. It requires only ‘an objectively
reasonable basis for believing, ' that ‘a person
within the house is in need of immediate aid.'”
Michigan v. Fisher, 558 U.S. 45, 47 (2009) (quoting
Brigham City, 547 U.S. at 404-06 and
Mincey, 437 U.S. at 392).
reviewing whether exigent circumstances were present, the
Court considers the “totality of the circumstances and
the inherent necessities of the situation at the time.”
Huffman, 461 F.3d at 783. (quoting
United States v. Rohrig, 98 F.3d 1506, 1511 (6th
Cir. 1996)). “Indications of the need of aid include
reported observations of distress, Schreiber v. Moe,
596 F.3d 323, 330 (6th Cir. 2010), and credible, reliable
evidence that someone inside the home is in trouble.
Johnson v. City of Memphis, 617 F.3d 864, 869 (6th
Cir. 2010).” United States v. Barclay, 578 F.
App'x 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2014).
had recently been in the apartment and told the officers that
Williams was being held against her will with a gun to her
head, and that “there was ‘blood everywhere,
' and that Ms. Williams had broken bones, [and] blood
running down her face.” [Record No. 12-2] Payne
consistently reported the same version of events to multiple
officers, and appeared to have a legitimate fear for her
friend. All of the officers present found her to be credible.
The officers confirmed that Martin lived at the address Payne
provided, and that he had a previous charge for murder, as
Payne had stated. Additionally, the officers found that
Martin had recently been arrested for allegedly hitting a
victim with a gun, which was similar to the events that Payne
described. Payne confirmed that Williams and Martin were
still in the apartment before the officers entered, and upon
entry the officers ...