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Shot in the dark 

In April, the Arkansas Times reported the story of North Little Rock resident Tracy Ingle, who was shot in January 2008 by a North Little Rock Police Department S.W.A.T. team executing a no-knock search warrant on his East 21st Street home. Though the search of Ingle's residence and Jeep uncovered no drugs or drug-making supplies — only a digital scale and some baggies that other family members say belong to them — Ingle stands accused of several felonies, including possession of drug paraphernalia and two counts of aggravated assault, for pointing a non-working gun at two North Little Rock police officers who smashed through his bedroom window in the middle of the night, waking him from a sound sleep.

Those officers, later identified in court filings as Wesley Honeycutt and Steven Chamness, riddled Ingle's bedroom with bullet holes and shot Ingle five times, including one bullet that pulverized his left femur. 

At the time of the story's publication, NLR police and the office of Traffic Judge Randy Morley had been unable to produce for us the affidavit that was presented by police to obtain the warrant on Ingle's house.

An attorney for Ingle was able to obtain that affidavit, however, and a recent filing based on details found there seems to raise even more questions about the case.

In the affidavit, included in a motion to suppress evidence filed on Sept. 8 by Little Rock attorney John Wesley Hall Jr., NLRPD investigator James Franks states that on Dec. 20, 2007, a confidential source purchased methamphetamine at Ingle's house from a white female known to the informant only as “Kate.” The informant told Franks that “Kate” almost always carried a gun. In addition to the informant's warning about the suspect being potentially armed, Franks made the case for a night-time, no-knock raid — used only when there would be considerable danger to officers — because Ingle's house is on a dead-end street, and because evidence could be destroyed if the police were to announce their presence before entry. 

Hall points out that while the search warrant was signed by Judge Morley on the afternoon of Dec. 21, 2007, police did not act upon the warrant until Jan. 7, 2008 — more than 17 days later. “Any possible probable cause dissipated between the issuance of the search warrant at 2:19 p.m. December 21 and 7:40 p.m. January 7,” Hall wrote. “(T)he unreasonableness of delay in execution made it stale.” 

Arkansas law states that a search warrant must be executed “within a reasonable time,” but not more than 60 days after it is issued.

Even though a drug sale by a woman named “Kate” was central to obtaining the search warrant on Ingle's residence, details about the woman and the drugs she sold are sketchy in the affidavit. By the time of the raid, “Kate” had apparently never been detained, questioned or even identified beyond a first name by North Little Rock police. “What does this affidavit say about the nexus between ‘Kate' or the drugs and the premises which would tend to indicate that drugs would be found there at the time of the search? Nothing; not a word,” Hall wrote. “Is she a long term guest, short term guest, occasional visitor, defendant's girlfriend or just passing through, co-tenant, sole owner, trespasser, meddler? Nothing is said … For all the affidavit for the search warrant shows, there was no effort to determine who ‘Kate' was and whether ‘Kate' was associated with the premises.”

Continuing on the theme of the vagueness of Franks' affidavit and the connection between ‘Kate' and Ingle, Hall wrote: “Did the drugs for that sale constitute a mere 1/10th of a gram and it was all she had on her? Did it come from a larger stash or out of a pocket? Did ‘Kate' say anything about there being more drugs? Apparently not, because any effective police officer certainly would have included a reference to it to bolster the effort at showing probable cause.”   

John Hout is handling the case for the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney's office. He said that ethical rules prevent him from discussing the particulars of the case — including the issue of whether or not a search warrant can go “stale” if not executed promptly — but added that he would be filing a response to Hall's motion in the near future. Hout said that because of scheduling conflicts and other concerns, Ingle's trial would likely be postponed until late 2008 or early 2009.

 

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