Things might have gone differently if Carl Dykes Jr. had peeked out a window or if the sheriff’s deputy pounding on his door in the middle of the night had identified himself, says the Orlando Sentinel. After hearing of two recent escapes from a jail next door, the frightened homeowner armed himself before opening the door. When blinded by a bright light – bang! – the shotgun went off accidentally, he claimed. Unharmed but shaken, the deputy shining a high-intensity flashlight drew his pistol and shot Dykes in the face.
The near-fatal confrontation April 15 happened during a “knock-and-talk,” a common law-enforcement practice in which officers show up on a resident’s doorstep – usually based on some kind of tip – and try to convince residents to let them in without a search warrant. Civil libertarians and some lawyers criticize the use of these controversial doorstep encounters – especially if they occur after dark. “You have to wonder if it’s a wise policy.  Going to the house at that time of the morning is inherently dangerous for the officers and the residents,” said Doug Ward of a police-leadership program at Johns Hopkins University who served 27 years with the Maryland State Police. “It’s very lucky that that turned out as well as it did.” More people might decline these searches if cops had to inform them of the right to refuse, said Florida State University College of Law Associate Dean Wayne Logan. “Unlike Miranda, police don’t have to advise homeowners of their Fourth Amendment rights,” he said. Once residents let officers in, they have little recourse if police ransack their homes or violate their rights, said Orlando defense attorney Donald Lykkebak. “The smart thing to do is insist they get a warrant.”