FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 527-175,
SECTION "A" Honorable Laurie A. White, Judge
A. CANNIZZARO, JR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ORLEANS PARISH DONNA
ANDRIEU ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY J. TAYLOR GRAY ASSISTANT
DISTRICT ATTORNEY, Counsel for the State
WATTERS LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT Counsel for the
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Terri F.
Love, Judge Rosemary Ledet
F. MCKAY III, CHIEF JUDGE
September 25, 2015, the defendant was charged with illegal
possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of
La. R.S. 14:95.1. He was also charged with a misdemeanor,
flight from an officer, in violation of La. R.S. 14:108.1.
hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress evidence
was heard on August 3, 3016. The court denied the
defendant's motion to suppress evidence and found no
probable cause as to the felon with a firearm
commenced on September 20, 2016. The court recessed the trial
after the testimony of Officer John Sananayke was complete. On
September 22, 2016, the defendant entered a guilty plea
pursuant to State v. Crosby, 338 So.2d 584 (La.
1976), reserving his rights to challenge the trial
court's ruling denying his motions to suppress the
evidence and statements.
trial court sentenced the defendant to ten years imprisonment
at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation or
suspension of sentence for the illegal possession of a fire
arm by a convicted felon, and to six months in Orleans Parish
Prison for the misdemeanor. The State immediately filed a
multiple bill pursuant to La. R.S. 15: 529.1, alleging the
defendant to be a third offender. The defendant admitted the
allegations. The court then vacated the previously imposed
sentence and sentenced the defendant to thirteen years and
four months at hard labor, without benefit of parole,
probation, or suspension of sentence. The sentence was
ordered to be served concurrently with the misdemeanor. The
court noted that the plea was accepted under State v.
Crosby and that the defendant was preserving his right
to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress evidence and
John McIver testified at the motion hearing that on the
afternoon of September 25, 2015, he and his partner, John
Sananayke, were traveling on Willow Street in a fully marked
"Explorer SUV" in an easterly direction. Officer
McIver was seated in the passenger seat. As the officers
passed Milan, a one-way street, they observed a black GMC SUV
stopped at the intersection, facing the wrong direction.
Officer McIver looked back to see the GMC turn against the
direction they were traveling onto Willow. Realizing that the
GMC was traveling the wrong direction on a one-way street,
Officer Sananayke performed a U-turn as the officers observed
the GMC turn onto General Pershing Street, also a one way
street, in the wrong direction. The officers passed General
Pershing and turned onto the next street and proceeded
towards Claiborne Avenue in the same direction as the GMC.
Claiborne, the officers did not see the GMC and decided to
turn back down General Pershing. As they passed the Popeyes
at the corner of General Pershing and Claiborne, they
observed the GMC in the rear of the parking lot.
Sananayke said, "There is the vehicle right there.
It's in that parking lot." As soon as Officer
Sananayke stopped the police vehicle, both brake lights on
the GMC came on, and it backed out of the parking spot. The
GMC drove onto Claiborne. Officer Sananayke backed up onto
Claiborne and continued behind the GMC after it emerged from
the lot. The officers activated their lights and siren;
however the GMC "began speeding up and slamming on its
brakes, speeding up and slamming on its brakes, swerving back
and forth." From behind, Officer McIver could clearly
see the driver of the GMC "messing with stuff underneath
the seat or underneath the dashboard."
continued to proceed in this manner for approximately two
blocks and then abruptly pulled to the right-hand side of the
road and almost came to a complete stop. The officers pulled
in behind the GMC; however, the vehicle "abruptly took
off " and "burst back into the traffic." The
GMC proceeded for another block or block-and-a-half in this
manner until the driver stopped and pulled over.
Sananayke and Officer McIver both approached the vehicle:
Officer Sananayke on the driver's side, Officer McIver on
the passenger side. Given the experience they had just had,
Officer McIver asked the occupants to show their hands and
instructed them to step out. Mr. Watts (the defendant) was
the driver of the vehicle. There was a front seat passenger,
Mr. Brown, and two children in the back.
were handcuffed and Officer McIver advised them of their
Miranda rights.  Officer McIver asked Mr. Watts what he
was hiding when he was making "those movements."
Mr. Watts stated that he was "trying to pick something
up, and then the gas pedal got stuck or ...