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Edmond v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

August 2, 2016

JESSE GREGORY EDMOND
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

         FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND Beverly W. Snukals, Judge

          Jennifer M. Newman (Jennifer M. Newman, P.C., on brief), for appellant.

          Benjamin H. Katz, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Judges Humphreys, O'Brien and Malveaux Argued at Richmond, Virginia

          OPINION

          MARY BENNETT MALVEAUX JUDGE

         Jesse Gregory Edmond (appellant) appeals his conviction for murder, in violation of Code § 18.2-32, robbery, in violation of Code § 18.2-58, conspiracy to commit robbery, in violation of Code §§ 18.2-58, -22, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, in violation of Code § 18.2-53.1, and use of a firearm in commission of a felony, subsequent offense, in violation of Code § 18.2-53.1. He argues that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress and subsequent motion to reconsider because the officer stopping the vehicle did not have reasonable suspicion for the stop. We disagree, and, for the following reasons, affirm the convictions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 5, 2014, at 3:58 p.m., the City of Richmond Police Department received information that a crime was committed at Victoria Jewelers, located at 309 East Broad Street. Responding officers found the victim, Muhammad Haroon Baig, deceased with a gunshot wound to his head. Detective Michael Gouldman arrived to assist in the investigation. He noted that roughly half of the merchandise was missing from the display cases, the office in the back of the store had been "ransacked, " and the DVR recording system had been pulled out and smashed. The store's owner confirmed that much of his merchandise was missing, as well as some cash that had been located below the register. The owner told police that he last spoke with Baig by phone at 2:44 p.m. that afternoon.

         Earlier that day, at approximately 12:30 p.m., Detective Christopher Henry of the Henrico Police Department received a report of a suspicious situation at a Citizen and Farmers Bank located in Henrico County. Once Henry arrived at the bank, a teller told him that she had observed a suspicious situation with a man and woman. The couple entered the bank together. The woman initially went to a teller's station near the witness while the man stayed at a table in the center of the bank lobby. This station was experiencing computer issues. The woman was redirected to the witness' teller station, and the man joined her there. The two spoke quietly with each other while at the teller station. The woman appeared to be wearing a wig and was holding a piece of paper that the teller believed was "some sort of a note." When the bank teller asked the two individuals how she could help them, the man asked for change for a dollar. The teller told him that if he needed change, he could go to the convenience store across the street. The man and woman then left the bank. Surveillance footage from the bank captured the incident and the individuals involved.

         When the individuals left the bank, another teller went outside and saw them enter a blue Dodge Durango SUV with the Virginia license plate "VAR-5735." The Durango's hazard lights were on, and it was parked on the grass shoulder of the street where the bank was located.

         Detective Henry learned that the Durango was registered to Auto Plus Used Car Sales. After speaking with an Auto Plus manager, he learned that the Durango had been leased on May 1, 2014. The manager told Henry that the vehicle was equipped with a GPS tracking device, and he obtained the Durango's GPS location for the detective. At approximately 2:30 p.m. on May 5, the Durango was on North Third Street, just north of Broad Street, in the City of Richmond.

         Later that day, Henry saw a news story about the incident at Victoria Jewelers. Due to the proximity of the Durango to the jewelry store shortly before the robbery occurred, he contacted Detective Gouldman and gave him the information he had about the incident at the Citizen and Farmers Bank.

         The next day, May 6, 2014, Henry contacted the manager of Auto Plus and received an updated GPS location for the Durango, which placed it in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Henry provided this information to Gouldman. He also provided Gouldman with surveillance footage of the man and woman from the bank incident. Gouldman noted the distinctive appearance of the individuals in the video: the woman was wearing a sweater that had "bold up-and-down" stripes, boots, and a wig, while the man was wearing a green and white striped shirt. He also noticed that the woman appeared to be wearing glasses when she entered the bank, but that at some point she took them off and the man put them on.

         That same day, May 6, the Richmond Police Department contacted the U.S. Marshal's fugitive unit for assistance in locating the Durango. Deputy Marshal Bryan Konig, supervisor of the U.S. Marshal's Violent Fugitive Task Force in North Carolina, was contacted just prior to lunchtime and asked to locate a 2002 blue Dodge Durango "that was involved in a series of criminal activities that occurred on May the 5th in various areas of Eastern Virginia." While on the way to Roanoke Rapids, he spoke with an officer from that jurisdiction who told him that he had successfully located the vehicle in response to a request by the Henrico County Police Department.[1] Detective Gouldman personally contacted Konig during this period. In their initial conversation, Gouldman told Konig that he did not have anything to directly connect the vehicle to the jewelry store incident. Gouldman did tell Konig that the criminal activity in Virginia involved an attempted bank robbery, a convenience store robbery, [2] and a robbery and homicide at a jewelry store.

         Shortly after arriving in Roanoke Rapids, Konig located the vehicle and began surveillance. The Durango made several stops at local restaurants and stores. Throughout these stops, Konig frequently updated Detective Gouldman on the movements of the vehicle and its occupants.

         Later on May 6, Gouldman obtained surveillance footage from the Richmond Times-Dispatch building from May 5, the date of the robbery/homicide. The building had a movable security camera on the corner of Grace Street, which had a view of Broad Street and North Third Street, and also showed the entrance to an alleyway located between Grace Street and Broad Street. The back door of Victoria Jewelers opened into this alley. The only way to exit the alley was through North Third Street. The surveillance video, which had a time stamp of 2:52 p.m., showed four individuals, three men and one woman, coming out of the alley carrying several large items, bags, and boxes. The individuals then loaded the items into a dark-colored Dodge Durango and proceeded south on Third Street towards Franklin Street. Of the four individuals, Gouldman could describe two men only as "wearing dark clothing." However, the woman and other man "match[ed] the clothing descriptions to a tee exactly as the two individuals that were seen in the . . . [b]ank video." He noted that the man was wearing "the green-and-white plaid shirt" and that the woman was wearing the "boldly striped sweater and boots."

         After reviewing this video, Gouldman called Deputy Marshal Konig at around 5:00 p.m. and told him about the additional surveillance footage. He told Konig that he wanted to have the vehicle stopped in order to identify the occupants, but he did not want anyone arrested at that time. Konig told Gouldman that one of the vehicle's tail lights was out.[3] Gouldman decided to ask local law enforcement to stop the vehicle. Gouldman directed Konig to have the local agency conduct the stop so as not to alert the occupants that the U.S. Marshal Service was involved. At the time, Konig believed that a broken tail light was a traffic infraction under North Carolina law. Konig asked Officer Kristopher Jordan of the Roanoke Rapids Police Department to stop the vehicle without alerting the occupants of the Marshal Service's involvement. Konig advised Jordan that two brake lights were not functioning and that the vehicle was "involved in criminal activity in Eastern Virginia." At the time of the stop, Officer Jordan knew that a broken tail light was not an infraction under North Carolina law, and made the stop solely to identify the occupants for Konig.[4]

         Once the Durango was stopped, Officer Jordan relayed the occupants' information to Konig, who then provided the same information to Detective Gouldman. From Konig, Gouldman learned the identities of the occupants of the Durango: ...


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