Some cases of police brutality are both bizarre and disturbing.  An egregious incident occurred when officers in Largo Florida went to a funeral home to find fingerprints to use to search the phone of a man who they had fatally shot days earlier.

Police try to get fingerprints from a dead body

The 30 year old male victim had been fatally shot during a traffic stop. He was pulled over in a Wawa parking lot for having an illegal tint on the windows of his vehicle. The car was actually a rental, but the situation escalated when officers claimed they smelled marijuana inside the car. The victim then apparently tried to press the gas on the car in an attempt to flee, while one of the officers was stuck hanging on. Out of apparent safety concerns, the officers opened fire on the driver with four shots and killed him. Police also allege that the footage of the incident was not clear enough to make any kind of judgment about what happened at the scene. They said that the search of the victim discovered three different kinds of illegal drugs on him and over a thousand dollars in cash at the time he was shot.

It was later confirmed that two officers entered a funeral home’s cold storage area where the victim’s body was kept and attempted to use the dead man’s fingerprint to access his phone. The funeral home management did not try to stop them or notify the family of what was happening. A Lieutenant from the Largo police did confirm that the officers entered the funeral home and attempted to access the phone, but they believed that they did not need a warrant to do so. The department stated that they are going to investigate the incident further, and will issue a report.

Are actions like this legal?

Although the officers in the article claimed that the dead have no privacy expectation, the fact that they entered the private property of a funeral home and accessed something stored inside would tend to indicate that they need a warrant. This would be true whether they were searching for a body or anything else. The police cannot simply walk into a home or business and start searching for things without legal authorization. It is also doubtful that any reasonable judge would have signed off on a search warrant that allowed them to touch a dead body in a funeral home.

What kind of lawsuit can the family file?

There are tort law claims available to victims who have been emotionally distressed by interference with a dead body. The specific action is called intentional infliction of emotional distress and most of the relevant cases deal with families who have been disturbed by another person’s mishandling of a dead family member’s body.

Get help from an attorney

For help after any incident of police misconduct in the Largo area, contact Trevena, Pontrello, and Associates. They routinely help clients who have been injured or harmed by others.

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