Students 1, cops 0 


At about 1 p.m. on Jan. 9, three average-looking men knocked on the door of Tanner Thomas' Winter Park apartment. Though it was early afternoon, Thomas had just got out of bed and was more interested in lunch than answering the door.

One of the guys at the door was a tall black man; the second was a bald white man, maybe 35 years old; the third was a short, fat "kid" wearing camouflage cut-off shorts. All three wanted access to Thomas' apartment. They flashed identification, claiming they worked for the Orange County Sheriff's Office and tried to muscle past Thomas.

But the day before, Thomas, his roommate Brandon Willson, and Willson's girlfriend Abra Fatora, had read Knock & Talk in Orlando Weekly [Jan. 9], which outlined the exact technique police at Thomas' door were using.

Some police agencies use the knock-and-talk when they suspect criminal activity, usually drug possession or sales, but don't have enough evidence to obtain a search warrant. The cops knock on the door, ask to come inside and talk about criminal activity, using the art of bullshit and coercion to search a home without a warrant.

That's what happened to Thomas and Willson, two Full Sail students. Only the roommates, because they knew their rights, weren't falling for it.

Instead of giving police access to their residence, the roommates preferred to talk in the hallway, amazed at how police tried everything from sweet-talking to lying to get inside their Goldenrod Road apartment.

The cops, convinced that Thomas and Willson were muggleheads, even tried empathy as a tactic. "They said, 'It's okay. I smoke weed, too,'" Thomas recalls. "'I can't wait till I hit [retirement age] so I can start smoking again.'"

But the students didn't budge, especially when cops made the mistake of disparaging Full Sail, a well-known audio, video and digital technology school. "They said 99.9 percent of Full Sail students smoke pot," Willson says. "It got to the point where they were asking us why we didn't smoke pot. I go to a school that costs $40,000 a year in tuition. Why would I waste my time smoking pot?"

The three agents were also fascinated by rumors of a metal pole the roommates had erected in the middle of their living room. The pole, which Willson and Thomas built at the suggestion of a female stripper friend, has been the highlight of several parties at the apartment -- though nobody's gotten naked yet, according to the roommates.

The cops really, really wanted to see the pole, so Willson opened the drapes and let police peek at it from outside before they left. "I'll even have my girlfriend bend over for you," Willson kindly offered Orange County's finest. Fatora, however, politely declined.


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