United States v. Starnes, No. 13-1148 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
After receiving complaints of drug trafficking, police arranged an undercover controlled purchase of crack cocaine from a lower level apartment in Rockford. Days later, they obtained a warrant to search the “lower apartment.” The police knew that hours earlier, a shooting occurred at the residence and that aggressive pit bulls lived on the premises. After knocking and receiving no response, investigators forced their way into a foyer with two open doors: one led to the first floor apartment, the other led to ascending stairs. A dog ran from officers and up a few steps, before turning and charging the officer, who shot and killed the dog and proceeded up the stairs to perform a protective sweep. As he ran through the upper kitchen, he saw large chunks of an off-white substance on the counter with scales. In the bedroom he discovered Starnes. The officer detained and escorted him downstairs. While other officers were seeking a warrant for the upper apartment, other detectives searched the lower apartment and seized semi-automatic rifles, ammunition magazines, a loaded hand gun, and drug paraphernalia. After executing a warrant on the second floor, they seized Starnes’ photo identification cards, 290 grams of cocaine, 72.5 grams of cocaine base, $36,186 in cash, and more drug paraphernalia. The court declined to suppress evidence from the second floor; Starnes entered a conditional plea to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), possessing a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A). The Seventh Circuit affirmed.