Video: Man Says Broward Sheriff SWAT Team Broke Into His House Without Search Warrant

Screenshot via Emmanuel

Johnny Emmanuel has given many family members keys to his house. But none of them, he says, is able to open a side door at his Fort Lauderdale home — a door even he doesn't use. So when he got a text from his home-security system August 19 alerting him that someone had opened the auxiliary door, he assumed someone was breaking into his house.

He just didn't expect it to be the cops.

Emmanuel's home, where he's lived for about 17 years, has a robust security system that includes numerous cameras and a Ring doorbell. When he checked the live feed that day, he watched a team of at least five Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) deputies sneak into his home, march around the premises with guns drawn, find no one home, and then walk back out and lock the door behind them.

Emmanuel says the cops left no note they'd been there, let alone copies of a search warrant. He says nobody called him to say cops had been there either. If it weren't for the security system, he says, he never would've known BSO deputies had entered his home and snooped around.

"I have two young children," he says. "Thank God they weren't home — they'd be traumatized for life. Someone could have been shot."

As it turns out, video and documents obtained by New Times show BSO had obtained what's known as a capias warrant to look for Emmanuel's 25-year-old son, Eric Reese, who at the time was wanted on charges of aggravated assault on an officer and fleeing arrest. But Reese did not live at Emmanuel's home. And, more important, a capias warrant — essentially an arrest warrant — in most cases does not allow officers to enter a home without the resident's consent. Officers typically need to have "reasonable suspicion" a suspect is inside a residence before they can bust in legally. Emmanuel doesn't believe the cops did.

BSO spokespeople did not immediately respond to a message from New Times yesterday. (After this story was published, the department said that its spokespeople were not in-office Monday in order to observe Veterans Day.) But Emmanuel says he's freaked out — even if the cops had a reasonable right to break into his house (which he doesn't believe they did), he's floored no one ever informed him they'd entered his house.

According to court documents, Reese was charged with two counts of fleeing law enforcement and one count of aggravated assault on a cop in February 2018. Police claim Reese fled the same officer twice, February 24 and 26, and in the latter incident allegedly swerved his car directly at the officer's cruiser while fleeing. Records show he was arrested April 5, 2018, and released on bond. But in December 2018, he was charged with domestic battery in a new case, so a Broward County judge eventually revoked his pretrial release. On April 16, Broward Judge Thomas J. Coleman issued a warrant for Reese's arrest, which listed his father's home in Fort Lauderdale as his residence. But Emmanuel says the cops got the wrong address and doesn't understand why anyone thought they had "reasonable suspicion" to enter his house that day.

"My son hasn't lived here for months," Emmanuel tells New Times.

In fact, there appears to be evidence showing cops should've known Reese wasn't at his dad's home. For starters, a December 2018 incident report from the domestic violence case states Reese had been living at another Fort Lauderdale address with his significant other since August 2018.

That didn't stop a team of BSO deputies from entering Emmanuel's home this past August 19. Video obtained by New Times shows that just before 11 a.m. that day, the officers rolled up to the house, unlocked the side door, and barged in — some of them with guns drawn. In a second clip, the cops rifled through kitchen cabinets while Emmanuel's tiny white dog wagged its tail and greeted the officers. Another angle showed the cops lining up by a hallway, shining a flashlight toward some bedrooms, and then moving into the back of the house. They found no one and then exited the same way they had entered.

"If I didn't have the cameras, I never would have known they were in the house," Emmanuel says.

Reese himself was not apprehended until October 3 — by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office in Central Florida.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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