Matthew Heller was returning to his truck after having attended a Juicy J concert in Ybor City, Florida last February when he noticed something was wrong. As Mr. Heller told WFLA News Channel 8, “I come outside, jump in the truck, and the whole thing’s been torn apart inside, wires had been yanked out, the paneling had some scratches on it…” One might think that maybe it was a burglar who had been inside his truck, but nope. It was the police, and Mr. Heller knows that because they left a note saying exactly what they did.
The note police left was left on a tiny piece of paper:
your car was checked by TPD K-9. The vehicle was searched For marijuana due to a strong odor coming from the passenger side of the vehicle. Any questions call [phone number]
Mr. Heller is frustrated that police decided to rip his car apart, telling WFLA he would have been happy to let them in the car himself and search without having to cause damage. The truck they ransacked is one he uses for his business, saying, “I’ve got my whole life savings into this truck. It’s like a marketing tool for my business to promote the air horns and everything, just...The horns weren’t working, all the electronics were ripped out.” Oh, and they didn’t find any marijuana because Mr. Heller didn’t have any.
WFLA asked the Tampa Police Department for comment and was told, "While the search is legal, it is not typical. The Tampa Police Department is now reviewing the specifics of this investigation." Mr. Heller’s attorney, Dominic Fariello, doesn’t agree with the assertion that the search was legal. Mr. Fariello, speaking with the Tampa Bay Times, wondered if his client’s car was singled out because of its appearance. He told the paper, “It sounds like they saw this vehicle and said, 'There's probably drugs in there. Let's go find them.’ It's almost like they profiled his truck. I like to call it vehicular discrimination."
Mr. Heller and his attorney have asked for documentation on the search but have not heard back. Meanwhile, they believe the Tampa Police Department should pay for the damage they caused.