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Officers Almost Serve Search Warrant on Wrong Apartment

Event Summary

A search warrant was being served on a suspect in a conspiracy investigation involving the trafficking of illegal drugs. During this investigation, the subject’s residence was located along with his vehicle in a large apartment complex. The investigation was about 6 months long and this search warrant was one of five to be served within a few days. The search warrant was prepared for his apartment and his vehicle about three days prior.

On the day we were serving the search warrant, narcotics detectives conducted surveillance at the search warrant location and noticed that the suspect’s vehicle was no longer parked in its usual spot. Detectives conducted surveillance until they saw the suspect approaching his vehicle, at which time he was detained. Once detectives had detained the suspect, a group of detectives took the suspect’s house key to serve the search warrant at his apartment. When detectives approached the suspect’s apartment, the lead detective in the stack noticed that items by the front door appeared different than what was seen on previous surveillances. He then tried the key from the suspect and it did not work in the door lock. Based on this, the lead detective in the stack called off the entry and they retreated from the apartment.

I was then contacted as case agent. I contacted the apartment manager and learned that the suspect had requested a different apartment two days prior and had moved. After being confronted with the information from the front office, the suspect admitted to changing apartments a few days ago, but would not give a reason. Based on this information, a second search warrant was obtained for the suspect’s current apartment. During the search warrant, additional evidence of drug trafficking was located, including quantities of dangerous drugs.

 

Lessons Learned

  • Officers and detectives on scene at search warrants must have the confidence and authority to make decisions in the field. If the detective at the head of the stack hadn’t been thinking, the results could have been anywhere from embarrassing to unsafe for officers.
Changes as a result of that experience (what would you do differently?):
  • Prior to this, I would not contact the manager’s office in case they were friendly with our suspect. Since then, we try to send a detective into the manager’s office once everyone is in place just to confirm the resident one last time before hitting an apartment.

 

Full Report

Officers Almost Serve Search Warrant on Wrong Apartment

 

 

Employer Information

Type of Law Enforcement Agency: Police Department – City, town, or village

Agency Size: 250 – 499 Sworn Officers

Approximate Population Served: 100,000 – 499,999

Region of Country: West – Mountain (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, UT, NV, WY)

 

Involved Person Information

Duty Assignment: Sworn – Investigations

Was the involved person a supervisor? No

Years of Experience: Greater than 15 years

Age: 41 – 45 years old

Sex: Male

Ethnicity: Not Hispanic or Latino

Race:

  • White

 

Incident Information

Type of call/activity officer was responding to or engaged in: Search Warrant

Incident initiated by: Special Operation / Tactical Response

Classify the incident: Almost resulted in officer injury or fatality

Date of Incident: April 2014

Initial assessment of call:

  • Thought it would be routine

Dispatch provide accurate incident description? N/A

Number of officers on scene at time of incident: 5 or more

Did the incident involve a pursuit? No

Incident Summary:

A search warrant was being served on a suspect in a conspiracy investigation involving the trafficking of illegal drugs. During this investigation, the subject’s residence was located along with his vehicle in a large apartment complex. The investigation was about 6 months long and this search warrant was one of five to be served within a few days. The search warrant was prepared for his apartment and his vehicle about three days prior.

On the day we were serving the search warrant, narcotics detectives conducted surveillance at the search warrant location and noticed that the suspect’s vehicle was no longer parked in its usual spot. Detectives conducted surveillance until they saw the suspect approaching his vehicle, at which time he was detained. Once detectives had detained the suspect, a group of detectives took the suspect’s house key to serve the search warrant at his apartment. When detectives approached the suspect’s apartment, the lead detective in the stack noticed that items by the front door appeared different than what was seen on previous surveillances. He then tried the key from the suspect and it did not work in the door lock. Based on this, the lead detective in the stack called off the entry and they retreated from the apartment.

I was then contacted as case agent. I contacted the apartment manager and learned that the suspect had requested a different apartment two days prior and had moved. After being confronted with the information from the front office, the suspect admitted to changing apartments a few days ago, but would not give a reason. Based on this information, a second search warrant was obtained for the suspect’s current apartment. During the search warrant, additional evidence of drug trafficking was located, including quantities of dangerous drugs.

 

Environment Factors

Did the incident occur indoors or outdoors? Outdoors

What type of location was this? Private Residence or Property

Was the involved officer aware of previous calls or incidents at this location? N/A

Did dispatch provide accurate information on the location? N/A

Lighting conditions at location: Daylight

Was there inclement weather? No

 

Subject Information

Number of Subjects Encountered: 1

Did subjects have known criminal history? Yes

Did the subjects have any weapons? No

Were the subjects under the influence of alcohol or drugs? No

Did the subject(s) appear to be emotionally disturbed? No

Did the subject(s) resist arrest? No

 

Lessons Learned

Type of accident or incident averted:

Hitting the wrong apartment with a search warrant, which could have risked officer safety.

Contributing Risk Factors:

  • Complacency
  • Distraction

Contributing Protective Factors:

  • Good communication
  • Good scene size-up/assessment

Lessons Learned:

  • Officers and detectives on scene at search warrants must have the confidence and authority to make decisions in the field. If the detective at the head of the stack hadn’t been thinking, the results could have been anywhere from embarrassing to unsafe for officers.

Changes as a result of that experience (what would you do differently?):

  • Prior to this, I would not contact the manager’s office in case they were friendly with our suspect. Since then, we try to send a detective into the manager’s office once everyone is in place just to confirm the resident one last time before hitting an apartment.



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