Linus Phillip was killed by police in Largo, Florida, in March after he attempted to drive away from officers who wanted to search his car at a gas station because they said they smelled marijuana. The officers involved in the fatal shooting will not be prosecuted, but the Largo police are continuing a controversial post-mortem investigation on Phillip.
Two officers went unannounced to the funeral home where Phillip's body was located and used his finger in an attempt to unlock his cell phone. They did not notify his family in advance, nor did they obtain a warrant.
The Supreme Court has held that police cannot search a cell phone without a warrant, but the situation is legally complicated when the phone's owner is dead. "While the deceased person doesn't have a vested interest in the remains of their body, the family sure does, so it really doesn't pass the smell test," Charles Rose, a Stetson University law professor, told the Tampa Bay Times. "This is one of those set of factors that walks on the edge of every issue."
Phillip's fiancée, Victoria Armstrong, happened to be at the funeral home when the detectives arrived. "I just felt so disrespected and violated," she said of their surprise appearance. Armstrong has called for further investigation of Phillip's death, particularly because the police have reported differing quantities of drugs they say were in his vehicle. "There's so many parts of the case that still aren't adding up," she said to the Tampa Bay Times. "I just want the truth."