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United States v. White

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 20, 2019





         Defendant Antoine White stands charged with one count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The matter is presently before the Court on Defendant's motion to suppress evidence discovered after City of Detroit police officers David Garcia and Derrick King stopped Defendant for a traffic infraction on April 25, 2019. (ECF No. 19.) In addition to the Government's response, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on October 29, 2019, and received supplemental briefs from Defendant and the Government, with respect to the motion. For the reasons that follow, the Court is now granting Defendant's motion to suppress.

         Factual Background

         A video camera on the officers' scout car and their body cameras captured the traffic stop relevant to Defendant's motion. The Government filed the video recordings under seal (see ECF No. 26) and presented them as exhibits during the evidentiary hearing. Officers Garcia and King testified at the hearing.

         This evidence established that on April 25, 2019, at about 12:30 p.m., Officers Garcia and King were on patrol in the Detroit's Sixth Precinct, where they were assigned to focus mostly on gangs, guns, robberies, and shootings. As the officers approached or were stopped at the intersection of Westwood Street and Kendall Street, they witnessed Defendant, who was riding a motor bike or minibike, fail to stop at a stop sign. The officers also noted that the motor bike was not equipped with turn signals or brake lights. Defendant does not contest the basis for the traffic stop.

         Honorable Linda V. Parker The patrol car dashcam video reflects that Defendant kept his hands on the motorbike's handle bars when he first pulled over in response to the officers. Defendant then placed his hands in the air. The officers exited the patrol car and approached Defendant, with Officer Garcia on Defendant's left and Officer King on his right. As they approached, Officer Garcia instructed Defendant to turn off the motorbike, which Defendant did with his right hand. Defendant then returned his right-hand to the motorbike's handlebars.

         Immediately upon reaching Defendant, Officer King began frisking Defendant. Officer White then asked Defendant if he had any identification on him and if he had “any pistols on [his] person.” When Officer Garcia asked Defendant if he had identification, Defendant removed his right hand from the handlebar, but Officer King directed Defendant's hand back to the handlebar and then resumed frisking him. If Defendant indicated that he did or did not have identification, it cannot be heard on the recordings and the officers did not provide this information during their evidentiary hearing testimony.

         Defendant informed the officers that he had just found a broken “two-five” (i.e., a type of handgun). Officer King then began to handcuff Defendant. Officer Garcia informed Defendant that he went straight through the stop sign and had to abide by the traffic rules while riding the scooter. Officer Garcia then asked Defendant where the firearm was located, and Defendant indicated that it was in his front left pocket. Officer Garcia retrieved the weapon, a .25 caliber Raven Arms P25. Officer Garcia asked Defendant if he was on probation or parole. Defendant answered no. Officer King then asked Defendant if he has a concealed pistols license. Defendant indicated he did not.

         The officers arrested Defendant for carrying a concealed weapon without a license. According to the Indictment, Defendant previously had been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one-year imprisonment, which rendered it unlawful for him to possess a firearm. (ECF No. 8.)

         Officer Garcia testified at the evidentiary hearing that Defendant was compliant, did nothing to indicate that he intended to flee, and made no gestures suggesting that he was dangerous. Officer Garcia further testified that he did not believe Defendant was armed with a weapon when he approached him. When asked at the evidentiary hearing if Defendant made any gestures or suspicious movements, Officer King mentioned Defendant's movement of his hand toward his right pant leg pocket and testified that “in [his] experience dealing with individuals that carry weapons, they usually reach - it is a reaction for them to reach for it, to check to see where it is at, before you find it.” Both officers indicated at the hearing that they did not know anything about Defendant before stopping him.

         Applicable Law and Analysis Whether the Search was Unconstitutional

         The Fourth Amendment safeguards “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. A law enforcement officer's stop and frisk of a suspect-though potentially brief in duration-demonstrably infringes upon the suspect's liberty and thus constitutes a search and seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 16 (1968) (“[W]henever a police officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away, he has ‘seized' that person. And ... a careful exploration of the outer surfaces of a person's clothing all over his or her body in an attempt to find weapons is ... a ‘search.' ”). An officer may conduct a stop and frisk consistent with the Constitution “if two conditions are met.” Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 326 (2009).

         First, the investigatory stop must be lawful at its inception-i.e., justified by the requisite level of suspicion. Id. This requirement is satisfied when officers conduct a lawful traffic stop. Id. at 327 (explaining that the first condition-“a lawful investigatory stop-is met whenever it is lawful for police to detain an automobile and its occupants pending inquiry into a vehicular violation”). Second, before conducting a ...

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