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Attorney General: City Council cannot limit no-knock warrants

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council does not have the authority to limit the use of no-knock warrants, the N.C. Attorney General’s office has advised.

According to a response from the office, the council on Jan. 27 sought the advice of the attorney general on whether it had the power to limit the controversial practice. The Attorney General’s Office replied on Feb. 24.

Some residents were vocal about their concerns about the warrants and asked City Council members to instruct the city manager to direct Police Chief Jerry Stokes to suspend use of them after the November death of Ferguson Laurent Jr. Laurent was shot and killed by officers serving an immediate-entry warrant.

The Attorney General’s Office said the council cannot restrict the use of no-knock warrants beyond state and federal restrictions that are already in place.

The letter cites a 1997 court case, Richards v. Wisconsin, and a 2006 case, United States v. Singleton.

“The Supreme Court has recognized that no-knock entries may be justified by certain exigent circumstance, such as a reasonable suspicion by officers that knocking and announcing would be futile, that a threat of violence exists or that identification would inhibit their investigation such as by potential destruction of evidence,” the letter reads.

The letter also says that the N.C. General Assembly has “codified an exception to the notice requirement, which applies when the officer has probable cause to believe that the giving of notice would endanger the life or safety of any person.”

According to an emailed news release from the city, the advisory letter has “not been reviewed or adopted as an opinion of the attorney general.”

“Given the advice provided to the Salisbury City Council, the issue will not be addressed by the local elected body,” the press release reads. “The investigation in to the officer-involved shooting of Laurent is still under investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.”

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