United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. HORNSBY, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Lequinton Jerry (“Jerry”) and Omar Williams
(“Williams”) are each charged with one count of
felon in possession of a firearm. The charges arose as a
result of a traffic stop in Bossier City, Louisiana. Before
the court are Defendants' Motions to Suppress.
Docs. 19 & 31. Defendants argue that the police
lacked sufficient cause to stop the car or to search it. For
the reasons that follow, it is recommend that Defendants'
motions to suppress be denied.
before midnight on June 7, 2018, Lt. Dave Faulk and Det. Tim
Wooten of the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office patrolled
the area near the intersection of Benton Road and Interstate
220 in Bossier City. Doc. 37, Tr. 8-9. Lt. Faulk was driving
a marked police car on Benton road north of I- 220, and Det.
Wooten was driving an unmarked police car just south of
I-220. Tr. at 9-10, 55. Neither of the officers'
cars were equipped with video or audio recorders.
Faulk and Det. Wooten were assigned to this location based on
approximately twenty reported car burglaries and thefts by
area gang members that had occurred in the nearby Green Acres
Place neighborhood during the late-night hours of the
preceding weeks. Tr. 8-9, 51-53. In fact, the Bossier Parish
Sheriff's Office had received a report of a car burglary
within a week of this patrol assignment. Tr. 52. Lt. Faulk
and Det. Wooten were told that the burglary suspects were
young African-American gang members, with ages ranging from
15 to 21, coming from Shreveport late at night in groups of
two or more per vehicle. Tr. 9.
Faulk and Det. Wooten collaborated during the patrol
assignment by communicating via radio when the officers
observed a car that either matched the description of the
suspects or whose driver committed a traffic infraction.
Tr. 9-10, 54- 55. Lt. Faulk testified that he only
stopped cars that first committed traffic infractions.
approximately 11:30 p.m., Lt. Faulk observed a Green Mercury
Marquis traveling north on Benton Road. Tr. 12. Lt.
Faulk followed the car for about one mile beginning in the
vicinity of the car dealerships just north of I-220. Tr. 26.
He saw the car “touch the centerline on Benton Road
going northbound, and then a few moments later it touched the
fog line.” Id. He then observed the car weave
within its lane “at least one more time . . . touching
the centerline and fog line, and that's when I went ahead
and initiated the traffic stop.” Id.
Faulk recognized this conduct to be improper lane usage in
violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 32:79. Tr.
12, 41. Lt. Faulk also testified that the weaving could be
indicative of intoxicated driving based on his experience.
Tr. 6-7, 22. He stopped the car at the Dixie Mart
gas station on Benton Road and submitted the car's plate
number via radio dispatch. Tr. 13.
Faulk reported the car's license plate number via radio
dispatch, he observed that two people were occupying the car,
and they were “doing a bunch of erratic movement in the
car, ” including “leaning and moving . . . in
ways normal people don't do.” Tr. 14. The
two occupants were leaning so far forward that Lt. Faulk
“could not see their shoulders . . . just a little top
of a head.” Tr. 15.
Wooten arrived at the traffic stop “within a few
seconds” to a minute of the initial stop. Tr.
15, 58. Det. Wooten recalled that Lt. Faulk “already
had his lights initiated and they were pulling into the gas
station as I was driving up.” Tr. 74-75. Det.
Wooten also observed that both occupants were “bent
over, ” and “were grabbing for something under
the seat, ” which he thought was “a pretty big
safety risk for a traffic officer on scene.”
Tr. 58-59. In Det. Wooten's experience,
“they're trying to hide guns or dope or
drugs.” Tr. 59. Det. Wooten ordered the occupants to
show their hands “due to it being a safety risk for
both of us.” Tr. 59.
Faulk approached the driver's window and asked both
occupants for their identification. Tr. 15-16. He
identified the driver as defendant Williams and the front
passenger as defendant Jerry. Meanwhile, Det. Wooten
approached the front passenger side of the car and spoke with
Jerry. Tr. 15, 59. Det. Wooten noted that Williams
and Jerry appeared to be “nervous and scared, ”
and their demeanor was “frightened, shaking, and
nervous.” Tr. 61.
“a couple seconds” of seeing Williams and
Jerry's reaching motions, Det. Wooten testified that he
opened Jerry's passenger door because “normally
when someone's reaching under the car [seat], like I
said, they're hiding something, and everything happens
pretty fluid. I'm wanting to get him out of the car to
secure him for my safety and his safety; so ultimately,
I've got to open the door to do that.” Tr.
at 61-62. As Det. Wooten opened Jerry's door, he
“immediately noticed the plastic baggie hanging out of
[Jerry's] right pant leg.” Tr. 62. Det.
Wooten noted that a “good bit of the bag” was
“hanging out of Jerry's pocket.” Tr.
63. Based on his training and experience in narcotics
investigations, Det. Wooten believed the type of bag to be
indicative of those “commonly used to store
Wooten recalled that he asked Jerry if he “minded
handing me the bag so I could see what was in it.”
Tr. 64. Det. Wooten recalled phrasing this question
according to his common practice in such scenarios, which is
to ask in the form of a question. Det. Wooten took the bag
and observed that it contained apparent marijuana.
Wooten placed the bag of marijuana on the roof of the car,
Lt. Faulk observed Jerry slowly reaching again under his
seat. Tr. 16, 64. The officers then ordered both
occupants of the car, at gunpoint, to show their hands. Tr.
16. Det. Wooten then pulled Jerry out of the car.
Tr. 16, 64-65. As Det. Wooten attempted to handcuff
Jerry, Jerry attempted to flee on foot. Tr. 17, 65.
Det. Wooten struggled with Jerry on the ground nearby, and
Lt. Faulk helped take Jerry into custody. Tr. 17. He
then “patted down” Jerry and found a loaded .40
caliber Glock magazine in Jerry's pocket. Tr.
65. The officers then placed Jerry and Williams in the back
of Lt. Faulk's police car. Tr. 18.
officers searched Williams' car and found a Glock .40
caliber pistol loaded with 24 rounds of ammunition underneath
Jerry's seat. Tr. 19, 65. The officers then
searched the trunk and found a black Pioneer Arms 9x19
caliber pistol loaded with 29 rounds of ammunition.
officers did not know that the defendants were convicted
felons at the time of the car search, but they were in the
process of obtaining that information. Tr. 66-68.
Det. Wooten testified that, although they were still waiting
to receive the full criminal histories for the defendants
during the car search, they would have, as a matter of
policy, waited to receive criminal history information before
releasing Williams based on the arrest of Jerry and issue of
joint possession of the firearm. Tr. 68.
was later released to a family member of Williams.
Tr. 72. When asked if the car would have been
searched “prior to releasing it to a family member in
this kind of situation, ” Det. Wooten replied
“Absolutely . . . [t]o ensure that any evidence
doesn't get moved or destroyed and that the family member
taking possession of the car doesn't get pulled over and
charged with something that they weren't - didn't
know was in the car.” Tr. 72.
entire incident from stop to the point that Jerry attempted
to flee occurred very quickly. Tr. 22, 62, 65. Lt.
Faulk estimated that Jerry fled within the first minute of
his approach, which is corroborated by Det. Wooten, who
estimated that he opened Jerry's door within several
seconds of first observing the reaching motions and further
estimated that “not thirty or twenty seconds”
elapsed from the time he pulled Jerry out of the car and
Jerry fled. Tr. 65.
made a post-Miranda statement to Lt. Faulk,
admitting that he knew he was a convicted felon and was not
supposed to possess a firearm. Tr. 20. Several weeks
later, Williams was also interviewed by ATF Special Agent