Just after weeks of protests at the police station, Fort Myers Police forcefully entered a house of a Black family, over a seat-belt violation. The event was caught on multiple cameras.
Since the murder of George Floyd, there have been numerous solidarity protests at the Fort Myers Police Department, calling for changes locally and nationally. Some of the protests have had hundreds of participants attend.
It seems that their voices and concerns have fallen on deaf ears, as the Fort Myers Police Department continues to target Black people and other minorities.
Officers from the Group Violence Intervention Unit, within Fort Myers Police Department, forcefully entered Keenan Carter’s sister house over what they claim was a seat-belt violation.
Carter and his cousins were parked outside of the house on the night of July 3. They started to walk inside, when an unmarked patrol truck pulled into the driveway with no lights on, according to Carter’s Facebook post.
As Carter’s cousins enter the house, an officer yells at Carter to get on the ground, while pointing his taser at Carter.
“Stop or you going to get tased,” the officer demanded, according to his post.
Carter complied and got on the ground, but the officer must have been blind as he told Carter to get on the ground after he was already laying down.
Carter tells the officer that he is down on the ground and asks the officer how he wanted him.
Carter is then detained.
Officer Chris Wuthrich, badge 529, then walked into Carter’s sisters house, without consent or a warrant.
According to the Facebook post:
He “didn’t say he was FMPD opened the house door taser draw and walked in the house.”
The video above is from the officers body camera, which shows the officer violating the Fourth Amendment and entering a private residence without consent or a warrant.
Fort Myers Police Department tried to cover their tracks with their release statement.
“The traffic stop began with emergency lights being activated, at which time the suspect vehicle pulled into a residential driveway located on Verona Street.”
When compared to the video above, it appears that their statement is false, as the car door was already shut and everyone was out of the car, with people inside the house.
Their statement continues:
“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.”
According to a legal dictionary, hot pursuit (or “fresh pursuit” as described by Fort Myers police) is:
“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.”
There are a few issues with the departments claim. If they turned their lights on in the middle of the road, as they claimed, the alleged crime did not happen on private premises. They did not identify who they “pulled over,” therefore it was unknown to the officers if the person was a felon. Carter and his family being inside the residence would also not destroy the seat-belt from evidence that they claim was not used, nor would the lack of use of one risk officer safety in a drive way.
Over the years, Fort Myers Police Department has targeted numerous Black people and minorities within the community.
In April of 2018, two officers tasered and arrested a Black man for shopping while being Black. Holley Denton Jones was charged with disturbing the peace, resisting an officer without violence, heroin possession, and marijuana possession but the charges were dropped after body camera footage showed what truly transpired. Jones is currently suing the city.
In 2017, it became known that 5 officers were linked to a local gang called Lake Boyz.
In 2016, Joshua McKnight, who is a Black police accountability activist, was ticketed $113 for jaywalking. Though, what really happened was Knight walking into the street and around debris covering the sidewalk.
Also, in 2016, 5 different videos emerged that depicted Fort Myers police officers acting in questionable ways such as attempting to plant drugs on a Black man, roadside cavity search of a Black man, and more.
In 2015, Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker, was terminated after an NFL player was wrongfully arrested. Nate Allen, who is Black, was arrested on a false tip. Baker attempted to cover-up the incident and was let go for his actions.
Video footage from 2013, that was secretly recorded by Fort Myers Police Captain Jay Rodriguez, was leaked last year. The video shows what appears to be Rodriguez receiving oral sex during a sting operation at an Asian massage parlor.
Over the years, the Fort Myers violence task force fell short on its accomplishments.
According to News-Press:
“In the first 112 closed cases:
- No charges were filed 41 percent of the time.
- 71 percent of arrests dealt with drugs, violation of probation or driving with a suspended license.
- More than half of the people arrested by the task force had no record of violent crime.
- 10 cases involved the possession of guns, but charges were never filed in eight of them.
About 80 percent of arrests were made in low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods. Innocent people in those communities were caught up in the task force’s efforts and left feeling like second-class citizens.”
The department also made headlines, when an officer falsely accused a Burger King of tampering with his food.
The department has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements, at tax payers expense, over the years. If the Fort Myers Police Department listened to the protesters and fellow tax payers and provided better racial diversity training, it could possibly save the city money and save more lives.