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United States v. Smith

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

January 8, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DAVID JEROME SMITH

          RULING AND ORDER

          JUDGE JOHN W. DEGRAVELLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Suppress Evidence (Doc. 25) filed by Defendant David Jerome Smith. The Government opposes the motion. (Doc. 28). On September 5, 2018, the Court held an evidentiary hearing. The parties then submitted post-hearing briefs (Docs. 33, 37 & 38). After careful consideration of the parties' arguments, the facts in the record, and the applicable law, and for the following reasons, the defendant's motion (Doc. 25) is denied.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Overview

         On February 9, 2018, a security officer at the Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, called the Baton Rouge Police Department (“BRPD”) and informed the dispatcher that a customer reported seeing a black male with a black jacket “waving” a firearm outside a mall entrance and concealed it in his pants before entering the mall. (Doc. 30, Ex. 1). An eyewitness also called 911 and reported that the suspect was wearing black and white sneakers, sagging pants, and gray underwear. (Doc. 30, Exs. 2-A & 2-B). The witness overheard the subject “say something about robbing.” (Id.). BRPD officers were dispatched to the mall. (Transcript of September 5, 2018 Hearing (“Tr.”) at 19-24).

         Upon arrival, officers were informed that “[t]here was a guy outside of the mall waving a gun talking about robbing something, ” and that the subject was wearing “sagging pants, grey underwear, and black and white Nike shoes.” (Tr. at 24 & 41). After entering the mall, a security guard informed the officers that the suspect was in Sam's Jewelry Store. (Id. at 27). Officers proceeded to the jewelry store and saw a person standing at the counter who matched the description of the suspect provided by mall security and the eyewitness. (Id. at 27-28). At this point, officers detained the defendant and discovered “a loaded Smith and Wesson 9mm pistol concealed in his waistband” (Doc. 28 at 2; Tr. at 42-43).

         B. Calls to Police Dispatch

          At the September 5, 2018 evidentiary hearing, the Government introduced recordings of two separate calls to BRPD on February 9, 2018. One call was placed by mall security to BRPD dispatch and stated that a customer reported seeing a black male wearing a black jacket “waving” a gun near once of the Cortana Mall entrances. (Doc. 30, Ex. 1). The Government introduced two other recordings of a 911 call placed by the eyewitness, who stated that she saw a black male wearing black and white Nike sneakers, sagging pants, gray underwear waving a gun near Entrance 3. (Doc. 30, Exs. 2A & 2B). The caller also stated that she heard the suspect say “something about robbing.”[1] (Doc. 30, Ex. 2B).

         A. Officers' Response

         i. Transmission of Information

         BRPD Officer Antonio Williams (“Officer Williams”) testified at the hearing that he was one of the officers who responded to the Cortana Mall on February 9. Officer Williams provided testimony regarding the information-sharing procedure between BRPD dispatchers and its officers. Dispatchers typically share information with officers through the use of two-way radios and by messaging the officers on the Computer Aided Dispatch (“CAD”) systems in their police vehicles. (Tr. at 13-14).

         On February 9, Officer Williams received a CAD message from dispatch for a Code Three situation at the Cortana Mall. (Tr. at 18-19). A Code Three is the highest designation given to a call and requires officers to “use lights and sirens [and] get to the call immediately.” (Id. at 19). Code Three calls are urgent “[b]ecause there may be a weapon involved or a possible life-threatening occurrence there.” (Id.). For Code Three calls, multiple officers must respond and at least two officers are required to enter a building. (Id. at 19 & 32). The first entry on Officer Williams' CAD system at 12:38 pm stated that mall security reported a “subject waving a gun, entrance three.” (Id. at 22). That message was followed by a request for backup officers and a supervisor. (Id.). Next, at 12:39, a message stated that mall security was looking for the subject, who was wearing a black jacket. (Id.). At 12:43, a message stated that a female witness went to the mall's security office and reported seeing a “male wearing black and white Air Nikes, sagging pants, gray underwear showing, [and] was outside.” (Id. at 23). The subject was with another male and the eyewitness heard “them say something about robbing, [but] she didn't get the whole statement made.” (Id.). At 12:46, mall security informed BRPD that the subject was possibly in Sam's Jewelry Store. (Id.).

         As Officer Williams was arriving at the mall at 12:43, he possessed this information in addition to information transmitted over his two-way radio. (Tr. at 23 & 34). Thus, before he entered the mall, he was aware of “a guy outside of the mall waving a gun talking about robbing something” and a physical description of the subject. (Id. at 24).

         ii. ...


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