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FORSAKING THE FOUNDERS: An unwarranted search complicates a CoMo police investigation

Both sides escalate a straightforward case, Part 2 of 3

By Matthew Schacht

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/15/14 (Feature) -- It's difficult to say exactly when Greg Rodgers' run-ins with law enforcement began.  
 
The Columbia resident pled guilty to a host of different offenses about nine years ago, court records show, including property damage, disturbing the peace, misdemeanor drug possession, and in an ironic case, unlawful possession, transport, manufacture, repair or sale of an illegal weapon

More recently, Rodgers, 51, filed a complaint against Columbia police officers for use of excessive force in early 2011.   "I'm not going to get assaulted again and handcuffed for any reason," he allegedly told Columbia Police internal affairs investigator Lloyd Simons.  "I would tell people that if you get assaulted by the Columbia cops, do the same thing back."

He was arrested in May of that year for leaving the scene of an accident.  After Rodgers failed to appear in court the following July, a municipal Judge issued a second warrant for his arrest.   Judge Crane's search warrant for 1607 Windsor, Apt. 8 (pictured above) followed in August.  

The search and arrest should have been straightforward:  Rodgers surrendered near the apartment police were authorized to search.   But court records suggest legal complications intervened after Detective Liebhart pressured Rodgers -- isolated in a holding cell -- to provide police access to other parts of the apartment building. 

Rodgers' lives on the second floor of 1607 Windsor, while his 84-year-old father Allan, who owns the building, keeps a locked, secure gun safe in a first floor maintenance storage room.   On advice from assistant Boone County prosecutor Stephanie Morrell, court records indicate, Liebhart reportedly told Rodgers that if he didn't provide a combination to his father's gun safe, police would destroy it and take the weapons inside.

Alone in the cell and without his attorney, Rodgers turned over the safe's combination.   Without a second warrant, police returned to the Windsor Street building, moving one floor down and around the building from the apartment they were authorized to search (see video below).  

They opened Allan Rodgers' safe and confiscated the weapons and ammunition listed on the inventory.

 

From Rodgers' apartment to the gun safe


To comply with the Court's narrowly-worded warrant, Liebhart signed a sworn but misleading statement.   "I, Detective Bryan Liebhart...after issuance of said warrant went to the location and premises described therein, and searched the same for property described therein; and that upon said premises, I discovered property described in the warrant which I then and there took into my possession (see attached inventory of property taken)."

Except that Allan Rodgers first-floor storage room safe was never mentioned -- nor even hinted at -- in Judge Crane's warrant.    Instead, the inventory and Liebhart's statement falsely suggested the safe was in Greg Rodgers' apartment.

Prosecutors pressed charges that were later dismissed.   But they held Rodgers' -- and his father's -- legally-owned guns, forcing both men through a "inventory return" process that dragged on for more than a year.

NEXT:  Do it right to make it stick

PART ONE

A Columbia Heart Beat reader-sponsored feature

 

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