Judge says police legally entered house

WAILUKU — Saying police had authority to go into a Wailuku residence without permission after an off-duty officer saw a woman screaming for help and being dragged into the home, a judge Thursday denied a defendant’s request to suppress evidence in the case.

“They did not have consent to enter, but they did have legal authority to enter, given the exigent circumstances,” 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill said.

Lorrin Ishimine, 33, of Wailuku has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and three counts of felony abuse of a household or family member in the incident.

Police officers were dispatched to the house the afternoon of Aug. 17, 2016, after off-duty officer Victor Marmolejos Santana saw a car with a loud muffler speeding to a two-story residence on Liholiho Street. He testified that he saw a man, identified as Ishimine, get out of the driver’s side and go to the passenger door, where he screamed and made threatening gestures toward the woman inside.

Santana reported the woman was screaming, yelling and crying and trying to get away before the man dragged her up the stairs of the residence.

After calling for backup, Santana waited at the bottom of the staircase for on-duty officers to arrive before they went upstairs and were met by Ishimine’s sister.

The sister said no when Santana asked for permission to enter the residence, said defense attorney Chris Dunn.

He said officers entered the home anyway without a warrant and opened a door that turned out to be a closet before reaching Ishimine’s locked bedroom door.

When no one responded after officers knocked on the bedroom door and announced their presence several times, an officer kicked open the door to find Ishimine and his girlfriend in the bedroom, according to a memorandum by Deputy Prosecutor Emlyn Higa opposed the defense motion to suppress evidence.

In the bedroom, officers found Ishimine holding his crying girlfriend from behind while sitting on the bed, according to Higa’s motion.

Dunn argued that all photographs and statements resulting from police entry into the residence were illegally obtained and shouldn’t be allowed as evidence in a trial. That would include the girlfriend’s identity, Dunn said.

He said that Santana had seen what was happening from a distance and couldn’t hear what was being said. The officer waited 12 to 16 minutes for other officers to arrive before entering the residence, Dunn said.

“There’s a legitimate question to be asked if the officer perceived this to be an actual emergency,” Dunn said.

When they were at the door to the residence, officers didn’t see or hear anything to indicate there was an emergency, Dunn said.

“It’s just a quiet house,” he said.

Higa said it was appropriate for Santana to wait for backup for officer safety.

“He doesn’t know how many people are in that residence,” Higa said. “He doesn’t know how many of them are armed. He’s off duty. He’s alone. He’s unarmed.”

Once the bedroom door was kicked in, officers “saw a crime was being committed,” Higa said.

“At that point, it becomes a crime scene,” Higa said. “They can arrest the defendant. They can proceed with their investigation.”

Cahill said that the case centered on Santana’s observations.

There wasn’t evidence that Santana or anyone else saw any weapons, Cahill said.

“He didn’t see any blood. He didn’t see any bruises,” Cahill said. “Nonetheless, he saw a person being dragged in what appeared to be against her will. Whether a crime was committed, that’s for the jury to decide. But in his mind, it certainly appeared he was witnessing a crime being committed. He followed through.”

Cahill found that the exigent circumstances continued through the point when police kicked in the bedroom door. He said police had authority to take photographs and make sketches of the scene inside the bedroom. He said any photographs or sketches of other areas of the residence that weren’t in public view would be suppressed from being used as evidence in the trial.

Ishimine is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail at the Maui Community Correctional Center.