Shawn J. Sivertson stole "a few dollars" from a donation jar at a convenience store in 2012, then returned to his apartment in University Heights.
Police showed up at his apartment on Winspear Avenue and shouted for him to come out with his hands up. When he refused, officers forced their way in and took him into custody.
But they did not have a search warrant. Was that forced entry justified?
The state's highest court says yes.
The State Court of Appeals has upheld the robbery conviction of Sivertson, who serving is 20 years to life.
The court, in a 4-2 decision, sided with police that Sivertson's knife-point robbery represented a threat to public safety and said officers did not need a warrant to enter his home.
Sivertson had robbed the 7-Eleven store on the nearby 3200 block of Main Street. When the clerk was unable to open the cash register, authorities said, Sivertson stole dollar bills from a counter donation jar intended to benefit cancer victims.
After receiving a tip from a neighbor, 15 to 20 police officers surrounded Sivertson's University Heights residence on Nov. 4, 2012. Officers spotted him through an apartment window lying in bed watching television. At one point, Sivertson, 56, looked at them and then rolled over and closed his eyes.
When he refused repeated commands to show his hands and come out, officers forced their way in and took him into custody.
Following Sivertson's 2013 conviction, prosecutors sought an extended prison sentence, citing his five previous felony convictions, including four knife-point robberies. State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns imposed the lengthy sentence.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Jenny Rivera said that the justification cited by police to force their way in – that he might rush out of his apartment and attack someone – was without merit and violated Sivertson's Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
"In the moments before the police broke through the door of defendant's apartment, the moments critical to a determination whether exigent circumstances existed in this case, defendant did not take any action against the officers, or attempt to escape or avoid capture."
"To the contrary, he simply lay in bed, aware that the police were outside his door and looking through his windows. Nor had defendant harmed anyone during the robbery or before police broke into his home," Rivera stated.
Sivertson is being held at the state's Auburn Correctional Facility and is not eligible for parole until 2032.