Matthew Heller says Tampa Police officers damaged his truck during the search
The note Heller says was left on his vehicle
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -
“You think if anyone is going to break into your vehicle in Ybor, the last person you think, it’s going to be the cops.”
Matthew Heller didn’t know what to think when he found his truck ransacked and torn apart after leaving a concert in Ybor in February. Then, he found a note.
“There’s a little note left on a 2x3 piece of paper,” said Heller.
The note read “Sir, your car was checked by TPD K-9. The vehicle was searched for marijuana due to a strong odor coming from the passenger side of the vehicle. Any questions call Cpl Fanning.”
TPD found no drugs in Heller’s truck. He was never charged or even questioned.
“It was all sealed up, a parked vehicle in a private parking lot for a hip hop concert in Ybor. There were all kinds of smells, everywhere around here,” said Heller.
Heller says he wasn’t upset about the fact that police searched his truck, but that they broke in and damaged his vehicle.
“Disgusted, I’ve got my whole life savings in this truck. It’s like a marketing tool for my business to promote the air horns and everything. The horns weren’t working, all the electronics were ripped out,” said Heller.
News Channel 8 reached out to TPD to ask about the search and we were told by email, "While the search is legal, it is not typical. The Tampa Police Department is now reviewing the specifics of this investigation."
Heller said he and his attorney have asked TPD for documentation of the search but he has not heard back. While TPD claims the search was legal, News Channel 8 asked independent attorney Bryant Camareno and he doesn’t agree.
“It’s an illegal search,” Camareno said.“Usually if it’s some kind of unoccupied vehicle there has to be some level of exigent circumstance to justify searching a vehicle without a search warrant. Exigent could mean if there is a dead body inside, if there is a screaming child locked in the car, a dog but if the car is unoccupied there is no exigency to justify the search.”
“I am out for the damages and my time but mostly I’m scratching my head and kind of confused with everything. I had no clue this was something that could happen,”said Heller. Heller is represented by Dominic Fariello.