After a Florida police officer killed a man during a traffic stop, the victim’s family is accusing detectives of entering a funeral home to use the dead man’s finger to unlock his iPhone.
Police said they approached Phillip because his vehicle had illegally tinted windows, according to ABC Action News. Officers alleged they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle when they got close.
Police also alleged Phillip tried to drive away while dragging an officer who tried to get in the car.
Matt Steiner, the officer who shot Phillip, was cleared of any wrongdoing after the Florida state attorney’s office ruled that the shooting was a “justifiable homicide,” according to ABC News.
Phillip’s family said that two detectives later visited the funeral home where his body was sent. Officers reportedly tried to unlock the phone by holding the body’s hands up to the fingerprint sensor.
Phillip’s fiancee, Victoria Armstrong, said the officers went too far.
“So they are allowed to pull him out of the refrigerator and use a dead man’s finger to get to his phone. It’s disgusting,” Armstrong told ABC Action News.
Armstrong believes the staff at the funeral home should have at least let her know what was happening.
“I just felt so disrespected and violated,” Armstrong told local newspaper The Tampa Bay Times. “Nobody even calling us from the facility to let us know detectives were coming there at all is very disturbing. I’m very skeptical of all funeral homes now.”
Largo Police Department spokesman Lt. Randall Chaney confirmed to the paper the officers did visit the funeral home. He said the detectives didn’t believe a warrant was needed because there’s no expectation of privacy after death.
His family is now demanding police release video from the incident at the Wawa gas station in Clearwater where he was killed.
Officers said they reviewed multiple Wawa cameras, claiming there is no footage showing the shooting of Phillip.
Fourth Amendment protections do not cover deceased individuals, but some experts believe investigators’ actions are “ethically unjustifiable.”
Greg Nojeim, director of the Freedom, Security and Technology Project at the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology, told the Tampa Bay Times there should be some dignity in death.
“If I was writing the rules on this, it would be that the police would need a warrant in order to use a dead person’s finger to open up a phone, and I’d require notice to the family,” he said.