United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexndria Division
T.S. ELLIS, III, District Judge.
Defendant's motion to suppress in this drug distribution and firearm prosecution presented the following questions:
(1) Whether police stopped and detained defendant on October 10, 2010 on the basis of reasonable, articulable suspicion pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 22 (1968), or whether defendant was instead seized and arrested at that time without probable cause.
(2) If reasonable, articulable suspicion existed to support the October 10, 2010 stop, the next question is whether that reasonable suspicion ripened into probable cause warranting defendant's arrest and the search of defendant's person and vehicle that followed incident to the arrest.
A bench ruling issued denying the motion to suppress after full briefing and oral argument. This memorandum opinion records and elucidates that ruling.
On October 21, 2014, a grand jury returned an indictment charging defendant Bryan Christopher Samuel with conspiring to "distribute one hundred grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of heroin, " in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. Thereafter, on December 16, 2014, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment adding an additional count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 942(c)(1)(A).
At a February 2, 2015 hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, the government presented testimony from Manassas Police Department ("MPD") Officers Heather Munsterman and Russell McAndrews, who were involved in the events of October 10, 2010. In addition to the testimony of the two officers, the government introduced one exhibit: the MPD's event report describing the tipster's call that instigated the events of October 10 and the department's subsequent response. The officers' testimony was credible and reliable, convincingly establishing the following facts:
The MPD received a call at 9:45 p.m. on October 10, 2010 from Connie Grieve, who stated she was located at an Exxon gas station at 9901 Wellington Road and was observing two individuals who appeared to be selling narcotics out of a black Jeep Cherokee parked behind the station. Gov't Ex. 1. The MPD relayed this information over the police radio system and dispatched officers to respond. Hearing Tr. at 26, 29.
Officer Munsterman, who at the time had worked as a police officer for the MPD for about five years, was the first to arrive at the Wellington Road Exxon station at approximately 9:49 p.m. Id. at 22, 26; Gov't Ex. 1.
Officer Munsterman was familiar with the Wellington Road Exxon because she had responded to "a hundred-plus" calls related to crimes in that area over the course of her career. Hearing Transcript at 32. Both she and Officer McAndrews, a canine handler who also responded to the dispatch, characterized the Exxon station and surrounding neighborhood as a "[Nigh crime area." Id. at 33, 72.
When Officer Munsterman arrived at the Exxon station in her marked police vehicle, she observed a black Jeep Cherokee parked backwards in a parking spot behind the Exxon station in the manner described by the tipster and reported in the MPD radio dispatch. Id. at 33. As she approached the Jeep Cherokee, the individual in the passenger's seat of the vehicle suddenly emerged from the vehicle and fled. Id. at 34. The driver- whom Officer Munsterman identified in court as defendant- remained in the vehicle. Id.
After observing the passenger fleeing the scene, Officer Munsterman put her police cruiser in park and approached the Jeep Cherokee with her gun drawn. Id. She asked defendant to show his hands and he complied. Id. at 34-36. She then called for additional units and when more officers promptly arrived defendant was placed in handcuffs. Id. at 35.
A canine unit consisting of Officer McAndrews and his canine partner Mako arrived approximately one to four minutes later. Id. at 37; Gov't Ex. 1. At the time of these events, Officer McAndrews had been employed with the MPD for about five years. He and Mako had been a certified canine team since their ...