A Baltimore man came home Friday to his McElderry Park apartment to find the front door dented, cabinets ajar and his belongings strewn across the floor.
But when Mason Pruett called police to report what he believed was a burglary of the home he rented in the 400 block of N. Kenwood Ave., he was told that officers had caused the mess while carrying out a search warrant.
Baltimore Police spokesman Matt Jablow said the warrant named an address provided to them by Jari Hernandez, who is jailed awaiting trial on charges of robbery, second-degree assault and theft. But Hernandez doesn’t live at that address and hasn’t for at least five years, the home’s current owner said.
Police have not said what specific steps they took to verify the address before carrying out their search, but an affidavit of probable cause for the warrant said they relied on unnamed databases.
Police obtained the search warrant in hopes of recovering property stolen during a robbery Hernandez is accused of committing. Hernandez does not have an attorney listed as representing him in court records.
Jablow disputed Pruett’s claim that the doors were left wide open, stating officers secured the doors before leaving.
On Tuesday afternoon, Pruett was busy putting his belongings back in their place while two men made repairs to his front door.
“I feel completely violated,” he said. “They had no respect, no regard.”
I feel like the whole thing was ridiculous in a way and kind of sad too. If they had done any type of detective work, they could have figured it out.— Barbara Littleton, landlord
Police spokeswoman Nicole Monroe said it’s a misconception to believe police won’t break down a door when no one is home.
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“It’s not one of those things where we knock and, if you don’t answer, we go away and come back later,” Monroe said. “You have to manage people’s expectations….we’re still there to retrieve evidence.”
Before police carried out the warrant on the property, a detective knocked on the door and announced police’s presence in English and Spanish, she said. No one was home at the time of the search.
Police left an unsigned copy of the warrant on a kitchen counter, which Pruett later found after calling police. As a rule, the signed copies of warrants are returned to a judge, police said.
Pruett’s landlord Barbara Littleton was frustrated with the way police carried out the warrant. She believes Hernandez lived in the home several years before she purchased the property in 2018. In the affidavit of probable cause for the search warrant, police state Hernandez’s address was listed on Kenwood Avenue in several databases.
“I feel like the whole thing was ridiculous in a way and kind of sad too,” Littleton said. “If they had done any type of detective work, they could have figured it out.”
She expects the repairs to the front doors will cost her about $800.
“Human nature is fallible and we have instances where officers make mistakes,” Monroe said. “They are held accountable.”