Pipe Bomb Found in Mesquite Man's Home During Warrantless Search Inadmissible

pipe bomb.jpeg
Back in 2009, Michael Scott Page of Mesquite was awaiting trial on an aggravated assault charge. He was reportedly depressed, anxious and eager to get it all over with, but delay after delay pushed his trial back. He allegedly told a longtime friend of his that he felt like "blowing things up" -- perhaps even the courthouse.

His friend told the Mesquite Police about his disturbing statements, but added that she figured he was just blowing off steam. The police felt differently, and used his statements to get his bond declared insufficient. A warrant was issued for Page's arrest. On September 25, 2009, Mesquite Police rang the doorbell to Page's home. He was taken to the ground and cuffed. Barefooted, he asked one of the officers to get his shoes. He walked down a hallway, into Page's bedrooms, noticed a shotgun and a sword, and grabbed the shoes. The officer told the others what he'd seen. None of it, he added, looked illegal.

Page was taken to jail, and a pair of detectives arrived at his home. They called their sergeant and told him about the weapons the officer had seen. Based on some of the crazy stuff Page said to his friend, the sergeant allegedly told the investigators to collect the weapons for safekeeping. As the investigators sniffed around, they found a veritable cache: one AR-15 rifle, two AK-47s, two shotguns and a shitload of ammo, according to the incident narrative. But that wasn't everything.

The investigators claim a dresser drawer was partially open, and inside they glimpsed a galvanized steel tube with screw-cap ends. They dropped what they were doing and called for a search warrant. "In the bottom drawer investigators observed a metal pipe that appeared to be threaded at both ends with metal caps and a clear plastic bag containing material that could be used as a fuse," the warrant read.

Bomb techs partially detonated the device, setting off a loud bang, a flash and a small carpet fire. Page was now charged with possession of an explosive device.

At trial, Page sought to suppress the evidence, arguing that the warrant was based on an illegal search of his home. The trial court disagreed, and denied his motion. Page was convicted. But on appeal, he attacked the warrantless search of his home. Lawyers for the state countered by claiming the sweep was performed to protect the officers and the community.

Yet as the Court of Appeals for the 5th District of Texas sees it, the sweep wasn't performed until after Page had already been cuffed and taken to jail. Aside from the pipe bomb they hadn't yet found, where was the immediate danger that prompted the search?

"Because [Page] had been removed from the house and was en route to jail before the officers began searching his house, there is clearly no evidence to show [Page] was in distress, needed assistance, or presented a danger to himself or others. Applying these factors, we conclude the officers' exercise of their community caretaking function was not reasonable," the justices wrote.

Now prosecutors must go back to the drawing board and figure out how to prosecute this guy for possessing a pipe bomb ... without the pipe bomb.

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11 comments
Dallas_Joe_Schmo
Dallas_Joe_Schmo

5th District Court of Appeals at Dallas...not US 5th Circuit.  The Court that issued the opinion is one step above the trial court.  The U.S. 5th Circuit is one Step above our TX Supreme Court and TX Court of Criminal Appeals.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Calling them "Mesquite's finest" is damning by faint praise.

JS
JS

FYI, US court of appeals judges simply are judges, not justices. However, the appellate court that issued the opinion at issue does refer to its judges as justices -- only that court is the Dallas Court of Appeals, not the US Circuit Court of Appeals.

davidberry
davidberry

Oops!  Law enforcement is about serving and protecting; not interpreting the law.  Realistically, they probably saved someone's life.  Oops!

AY
AY

Really?! Can you go out there and do there job?! Are you putting your life on the line everytime you put on a uniform?! People (even police) make mistakes, so unless you do just that, don't open you dumbass mouth about what you know nothing about.

Ben Rosenblatt
Ben Rosenblatt

Realistically, when someone who does interpret the law reads a statement like the post you've written, they might say "speculation."

Eighteen year old radical anarchists can buy a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle which is capable of taking down a commercial airliner, but police officers just take it away for the sole reason they "might" do something illegal with it (without probable cause). I see our rights as more precious than that. Thomas Jefferson said he would rather deal with the inconvenience of granting too much liberty than not enough - I couldn't agree more. Though if you find your kid with a $6, 000.00 sniper rifle you should probably take notice ;-) .

The police do indeed need to be able to interpret the law, anything less is absurd. How would they know whether to charge people with crimes or not? It is most relevant when it involves constitutionally protected rights.

Another good reason is that the Mesquite PD may very well get sued for charging a suspect and detaining him using illegally obtained evidence.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

The other question for me is If the police believed the woman's story enough to revoke his bail why wouldn't they use that to get a search warrant to see if he was building explosive devices ?

Can you imagine the the OH SHIT the moment they had when they ( nudge nudge wink wink ) just happened upon the PIPE BOMB.

I bet it will be a long time before those two rummage around the house of someone suspected of wanting to blow things up with out a Warrant and the BOMB SQUAD.

AY
AY

Law and Order is over-exaggerated mostly made up TV for ratings. so that comment is so stupid.

Ben Rosenblatt
Ben Rosenblatt

I think the lack of a search warrant had to do with then being busy/lazy. They figure they will knock and if he's there and doesn't answer the door, or refuses to come out, a search warrant will be granted rapidly (since it now seems he has something to hide, it will probably be granted faster, though him not answering the door doesn't increase probable cause that he has pipe bombs!)

I think they get a hero complex where they think "how can we get in trouble, he had a IED!" They forget constitutional rights trump hearsay.

This is scary in a way because if it really worked as they operated, I could call up the police and say "so and so of planning a violent felony," and they could kick down your for while your roleplaying a kinky, consensual 'felony' with your wife/significant other. I know before Texas overturned it's sodomy laws a guy did just that with his homosexual neighbor. They arrested the guy for a false report but also the neighbor! I was happy that law was overturned because the police looked like the gestapo.

primi timpano
primi timpano

 Seems like the Mesquite police need to sit through a few law and order episodes.  Very bush league.  They can only blame themselves.

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