On the night of September 19, 1965, after 7:30 at night, two police officers were sent to the home of a man in Seaford, Nassau County, New York to investigate a complaint of a dog from that location, biting a neighbor. When they arrived at the house, they went to the front door and knocked to gain entry. The dog owner answered the door, but refused to open it for the police officers. He walked away from the door retreated deeper into the house.
The officers moved around to the side of the house to try to look through the windows to see what the man was doing. Then they heard him in the front yard. When they returned to the front yard, the man was standing in the front yard holding a shot gun. He directed the officers to leave his property or he would shoot them. The officers told him to calm down that they just wanted to talk to him about his dog. He threatened them again and went back into his house. This time, he turned off all of the lights in the house. The officers notified their supervisor and requested back up. Thirty police officers arrived to back up the officers on the scene.
They surrounded the house and ordered the man to come out. He refused and fired his weapon at them. The officers returned fire and the man was shot in the shoulder. He then left his house and surrendered to police. He was arrested and filed a motion to suppress evidence based on the contention that he had the right to defend his private property from trespassers and that the officers were on his property illegally. The Supreme Court reviewed the case and determined that the officers were legally on the property.
The officers were on the property to investigate a dog bite complaint from one of the neighbors. The fact that the neighbor called and made a complaint against the public safety of the area because of a vicious dog being owned by the defendant, made their presence on the property legal under the circumstances. The officers did not force entry based on this ordinance violation, but rather attempted to talk to the man.
The man also stated that his arrest was illegal. Since the officers did not arrest him based on the dog bite incident, that contention does not weigh against the evidence. The evidence suggests that the officers were on the property for a legal action, when they were confronted by the dog owner pointing a shotgun in their directions. The fact that he refused to lower his weapon and talk to the officers is moot, as is the reasons for his actions. The fact remains that he assaulted the police officers without provocation with a loaded firearm. The police offers were well within their rights at that point to arrest him. The test for legality of an arrest is whether there is probable cause to initiate the arrest. In this case, the officers were at the location legally, and he assaulted them with a loaded weapon. The probable cause for the arrest was not present at their arrival, but was definitely present when he brandished the loaded shotgun at the officers.
Still, the officers did not force entry into the residence. The dog owner contends that the evidence of two shotguns that were recovered from his house following his arrest should be suppressed because the search of his home was illegal without a warrant. The court agrees. The man was arrested outside of his home. The officers should have obtained a search warrant for his house before they entered and searched it.
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