Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news from Florida for working families since 2007

County News

CCSO: Deputies Refuse To Seek Entry Into Garbage & Fly Infested Residence In Which At Least One Infant Is Believed To Reside

Kitchen area of mobile home with headline: CCSO deputy did not ask to com in. One infant was thought to live there.
Photo via Derek Snead | Columbia County Observer graphic

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – On May 17, 2023, the Columbia County Sherriff’s Office refused to knock on a door and ask if they could “come in” into a residence where babies, children, and adults were at risk. The landlord said, "The smell was so bad you could cut it with a knife from 20ft. away, and flies were swarming around the place."

Mr. Snead continued, “Florida Power & Light removed the meter for safety reasons and the sewage discharge line was disconnected from the septic system and running into the yard. Of course without electricity, the tenants had no water.”

According to police records, the deputies appear to have departed the scene after the electric meter was removed by FPL.

Columbia County Florida

The Florida legislature declared Columbia County, Florida, a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern. This designation was later changed to a Rural Area of Opportunity for political reasons. Columbia County's per capita income is approximately 80 percent of Florida's.

The County's elected leaders do not support post-secondary education, and its college graduation rate is half that of Florida's. The County admission rate to prison per capita is four times the state average, and its poverty rate is 15.5 percent over the state average.

CCSO deputies at the mobile home on May 17, 2023
Two CCSO deputies were on site on May 17, 2023. As this story was published, there are no reports from the two officers. It is unclear if their body cams or dash cams were on. Photo: Derek Snead after he called for law enforcement.

What Is an Exigent Circumstance?

There are definitions galore and attorney opinions all over regarding an exigent circumstance that would require police, fire, or public health intervention.

The Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School referenced the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) for a definition:

Exigency means those situations that demand immediate action to avoid potential loss of life or property, including situations where a second event may occur shortly thereafter that could compound the impairment, cause new damages, or the potential loss of life if action to remedy the situation is not taken immediately.

If the fire department sees flames coming out of your house, first responders can enter without knocking. If rats are running out of the front door, roaches and bugs are rampant, and raw sewage is being discharged onto the property in a residential area, the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) may get involved if a child may be in imminent danger or there is a public health emergency.

Except in limited circumstances, everyone is protected by restrictions based on the US Constitution’s privacy rights afforded by the Fourth Amendment’s restrictions on illegal searches.

Emergency Aid is one widely recognized exigent circumstance that allows entry without a warrant.

Living area of mobile home with a baby walker on the couch and rocker on the floor
A baby walker on the couch and a child rocker on the floor. Photo: Derek Snead


The Columbia County incident in this story is about the failure of the CCSO to seek entry into the residence when confronted by the facts that the residence had at least one baby and children on the property. There was no electricity, nor was the mobile home hooked up to the septic system. There was also no water.

The smell reported by the landlord on the scene was that you “could have cut it with a knife.”

There was garbage and trash spread throughout the property.

The Landlord-Owner Called for Law Enforcement Intervention

mobile home hall way blocked from the bedroom making an exit during a fire problematic
The hallway from the bedroom was blocked making an exit during a fire problematic. Photo: Derek Snead

The sheriff's deputies did not have a warrant. They were called to the property by the property owner–the landlord.

According to landlord Derek Snead, he gave the deputies permission to enter. The deputies balked and said they needed a warrant.

The property lease states, “In an emergency, and as permitted by law, Landlord may enter the Premises without prior notice to Tenant.”

According to Mr. Snead, while he was there, the deputies did not try to knock on the door or ask the tenant if they could look at the inside of the mobile home.

Conditions were so bad at the residence that neighbors called the CCSO and complained. One incident that Mr. Snead relayed was the CCSO was called after one of the neighbor’s children was stabbed in the head. It was reported that the CCSO took an hour to respond.

The conditions shown in the photographs in this article are current and continuing at the time of publication.

Front yard of mobile home: Conditions inside the mobile home have its inhabitants reported to be living under a tree in the front yard
Conditions inside the mobile home have its inhabitants reported to be living under a tree in the front yard. Photo: Derek Snead


This afternoon, your reporter reached out to Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter about this article. Sheriff Hunter advised that he is looking into the situation and will forward information as it is available.

After speaking with the Sheriff, the Sheriff's PIO called and said the Sheriff's Office is looking into the situation -- "It's under investigation." The PIO said he expected to get back with the Observer in about a month.

Text messages between Mr. Snead and DCF do not mention any interaction with the CCSO on the day of or day following the May 17 incident.

Comments: to add a comment go here.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.