PLEASE NOTE: Nothing on this website or in this publishing should be taken as legal advice.
SAPD Officer Casanova’s Legal Battle
On March 25, 2022, Kens5 wrote a story about an officer involved shooting. Specifically, they referenced Officer Casanova of the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) and his involvement in a shooting death of Charles Roundtree Jr. The story indicates SAPD Officer Casanova was attempting to shoot Davantae Snowden, but Roundtree was struck.
The point of their article was to express a decision a Federal Judge would be making on whether the ‘knock and talk’ claims would be valid to dismiss the lawsuit filed on SAPD Officer Casanova or if the case would be able to move to a civil trial after the grand jury declined to indict the SAPD Officer.
The Federal lawsuit is filed in the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, under cause 5:18-CV-0117, styled:
BERNICE ROUNDTREE, Individual and on behalf of the Estate of CHARLES ROUNDTREE, JR. and the Stautory Beneficiaries, TAYLOR SINGLETON and DAVANTE SNOWDEN, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS; STEVE CASANOVA, Defendants
In the Kens5 article, they stated Judge Pulliam indicated his decision would be appealed, no matter what he decided.
What is ‘Knock and Talk?’
Per a publishing on the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs website, ‘knock and talk’ involves police officers knocking on a residence door and asking to speak with an individual. The officer can request permission to search the residence. It is usually practiced when there is not an arrest or search warrant and is considered a consensual encounter between the government agent (police officer) and the citizen.
‘Knock and talks’ are examined for potential violations of the fourth amendment rights. The right to be secure in ones person, house, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. The publishing states the Federal and State courts have ruled ‘knock and talk’ to be constitutional when they are conducted properly.
So, What Happened?
“While on patrol in the early hours of October 17, 2018, Casanova received a report that an individual had been assaulted outside of  Roberts and the alleged assailant had fled into a house across the street. Casanova Axon 02:30-02:40. The complainant described the assailant as a Black male wearing a grey sweater and blue jeans, between twenty and twenty-five years old, skinny, tall, and “he didn’t have any [hair].” Id. 00:50-03:10.1 Casanova decided to go to [a neighboring house on] Roberts to see if he could locate the alleged assailant. He knew the house, and its owner, Hence Williams, because he had been watching it and suspected it was “a dope house.” Id. 05:20-05:35.
Casanova and his patrol partner, Officer James Panah (“Panah”), waited for fellow Officers “Garza, Frank, Brian, and Jason” to join them before proceeding to the house. Id. 08:57-09:00, 14:22-15:15. When they arrived at [the neighboring house on] Roberts, it was dark outside and Casanova lit the way with his flashlight. Id. 15:28. Casanova and Panah walked up to the front of the house where Casanova briefly spoke to John Cotton, who was sitting on the porch. Id. 15:31-15:55; Panah Axon2 14:46- 15:29. Casanova stepped onto the porch and approached the two front doors of the house—the door on the left was a screen door over a solid door with a curved window at the top; the door on the right was a slatted metal or wrought iron door over a wood door with no window—Casanova first pulled on the screen door on the left side, then turned to the door on the right.
It is undisputed that Casanova knocked twice and that he did not verbally identify himself as a police officer. Otherwise, the parties dispute the events that took place after Casanova’s second knock.From the Honorable Judge Pulliam’s Memorandum Opinion and Order (document 217 in cause 5:18-CV-01117)
“According to Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amended Complaint, which is the live pleading in this case, on October 17, 2018, Roundtree, Singleton, and Snowden gathered at the residence located [on Roberts Street] San Antonio, Texas 78207.  Plaintiffs allege that Officer Casanova (Casanova) and two other San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) officers were purportedly investigating a misdemeanor assault that allegedly occurred on Roberts Street, when Casanova entered the residence via the front door without any verbal warning and shone a bright light at Roundtree, Singleton, and Snowden, who were sitting inside. . Casanova’s entry startled the three individuals, and Snowden walked towards the front door to see who was there. . Plaintiffs allege that Snowden saw Casanova pointing a gun at him and attempted to turn and walk away when Casanova opened fire, striking Snowden in the back and buttocks, striking Roundtree in the chest, and narrowly missing Singleton. . Roundtree died from his wounds. . Singleton alleges she witnessed the events and has suffered severe mental and emotional distress as a result. .”From the Honorable Judge Pulliam’s Memorandum Opinion and Order (document 218 in cause 5:18-CV-01117)
Undisputed and Admitted
The concern, in this case, involves the communication after the ‘knock’ when there was no ‘talk.’ The claims being made is Officer Casanova was required to identify himself before entered the dwelling. Both parties agree he did not identify himself. He entered the habitation without announcement. He also did not appear to have an existent circumstance to enter without announcement. This is the concern which requires review.
Merriam-Webster defines exigency circumstances to mean those circumstances where such urgency as to justify a warrantless entry, search, or seizure by the police when a warrant would ordinarily be required.
In simpler terms, Officer Casanova would need to explain the circumstance which existed, based upon case law, for why he did not announce himself when he entered the residence. If he does not articulate, and ultimately prove, such factors, then it may be reasonable to conclude an exigencies circumstance did not exist and entry into the house was probably improper because a search warrant could have been obtained.
What did the Federal District Court Decide?
The Honorable Judge Jason Pulliam decided the cause against the San Antonio Police Department can proceed under claims the city failed to train, supervise, and discipline and all other claims against the City of San Antonio, in this filing were dismissed with prejudice.
He also decided the argument by Casanova was denied and the cause can proceed to trial; however, Casanova, per Judge Pulliam’s statement in the Kens5 article, has decided to appeal the Federal District Court Judge’s decision. Now the case is on an “interlocutory appeal.”
An interlocutory appeal is an appeal to a higher court on a lower courts decision on a matter that is considered to be a non-final court order.
A Couple of Our Other Reads
You may be interested in reading our publishing on the SAPD April 2022 Suspension Report.
Or you may interested in reading about a Bexar County Union’s use of billboard towards the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.