United States District Court, D. Nevada
For Tony Williams, Defendant: Raquel Lazo, LEAD ATTORNEY, Federal Public Defender, Las Vegas, NV.
For USA, Plaintiff: Alexandra M. Michael, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorneys Office, Las Vegas, NV.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO SUPPRESS
RICHARD F. BOULWARE, II, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Before this Court for consideration is Defendant Tony Williams' Motion to Suppress, ECF No. 22. The Motion argues that any physical evidence seized from the Defendant or his car in the early morning of September 25, 2014 should be suppressed. The Motion avers that this evidence was seized wrongfully as a result of an unlawful detention and arrest of the Defendant as well as an unlawful search of the car he had been occupying. The Court granted this Motion previously and now elaborates on its decision.
II. Procedural History
On October 8, 2014, Tony Williams was charged in a one-count Indictment with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). On November 19, 2014, Williams filed a Motion to Suppress based on unlawful searches regarding the evidence that was seized from him on the day of his arrest on September 25, 2014. On December 8, 2014, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on this Motion and received testimonial and documentary evidence. On December 10, 2014, the Court announced at a pretrial conference that it was granting the Motion and that a written order would follow. This order and opinion follows that hearing and explains the Court's basis for suppressing the evidence in this case.
III. Findings of Fact
The Court makes the following findings of fact based upon the testimony and documents provided at the evidentiary hearing. These findings of fact are further based upon the Court's assessment of the credibility of the witnesses who testified at the hearing as well as an assessment of the other evidence presented at the hearing. The Court did not consider any other evidence that may have been attached to motions but was not presented at the hearing.
On September 25, 2014 at around 4:40 a.m., the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (" Metro" ) received a call from a person identifying himself as Tony Jones. The caller stated that there was an adult black man sleeping in a grey Ford 500 car. The car was parked in the parking lot of a residential complex. The caller said this person in the car was known to sell drugs but did not indicate that this person was selling drugs at the time. The caller simply wanted the person to be " moved on" from where he was parked and sleeping.
At the time this call came into Metro dispatch, Officers Alvin Hubbard and Thomas Keller were riding together in a marked Metro patrol car. Hubbard was driving. Upon reaching the location of the residential complex described by the caller, Hubbard and Keller found a car in the parking lot matching the description provided by the caller. Hubbard, who was driving, pulled the patrol car up behind the grey Ford, blocking the Ford's ability to leave. The Ford had cars parked on either side of it and the parking curb was in front it.
In the residential complex, approximately 40 feet away from the Ford was a sign that said " No Loitering" referencing " NRS 207.030" . The Court finds, however, that this sign would not have been visible from the Ford at the time the officers encountered the Ford since it was very dark outside.
After pulling in behind the Ford, the officers turned on their overhead lights and " takedown" lights as well as their spotlights. They directed their spotlights into the interior of the Ford. After the officers had turned on their lights, they observed a black man, later identified as Defendant Tony Williams, appear to sit up inside of the Ford. Williams was sitting in the driver seat. Williams then started the Ford. The officers had already stepped out of their vehicle to approach the Ford. Hubbard was behind the Ford on the driver's side and Keller was behind the Ford on the passenger's side. After starting the car, Williams momentarily placed the car in reverse but then quickly placed the car in park. The car never actually moved despite being placed into reverse momentarily.
While the car was still running, Hubbard approached the Ford and yelled at Williams to turn off the car and exit the vehicle. All of the windows in the Ford were up. Keller had his handgun drawn when he approached the vehicle. Williams complied with Hubbard by turning off the car and exiting the vehicle. Upon exiting the vehicle, Williams closed the driver side door of the Ford. Hubbard approached within two feet of Williams--within arm's reach of him--to initiate a conversation. A few seconds after Hubbard reached this distance, Williams began to run. He ran toward the front of the Ford and then around the other cars that were parked in the lot.
While the testimony of the officers, especially Hubbard, suggested that Williams had left the car running and the car door open, the Court did not find this testimony credible. Additionally, the Court finds that Williams closed the door based upon the officers' description of how Williams fled. That is, the door would have to have been closed in order for Williams to run to the front of the car and away from Hubbard. The Ford was boxed in by parked cars on either side. The Court also finds it highly unlikely that Hubbard, who was standing near the driver door when Williams exited, would have permitted him to completely exit the car without turning it off given that Hubbard's partner was standing behind the car to the right. Finally, ...