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United States v. Dardy

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 8, 2015

DAVID DARDY, Defendant

Page 401

          For David Dardy, Defendant: John R. Salsberg, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of John Salsberg, Boston, MA; Timothy M. Burton, Boston, MA.

         For USA, Plaintiff: John A. Wortmann, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office, Boston, MA.

Page 402



         Defendant David Dardy moved to suppress physical evidence obtained during a search of a vehicle in which he was a passenger and a subsequent search of his person on July 11, 2013. He also moved to suppress statements made following these searches by him and his fellow passenger. I conducted an evidentiary hearing on the motion to determine whether a valid traffic stop occurred. For the following reasons, I have denied Dardy's motion to suppress.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Findings of Fact[1]

         1. The Traffic Stop

         Around 1:45 a.m. on July 11, 2013, Officers Antoine Ramos and Joseph McDonough of the Boston Police Department were patrolling the area between the St. Joseph's and Warren Gardens housing complexes in Roxbury due to an earlier shooting there.[2] As they were driving down Wakullah Street, Officer McDonough observed a dark-colored livery car parked in front of 4 Wakullah Street. Because the car was parked in front of a known gang member's house in an area very near the recent shooting, the officers had an interest

Page 403

in watching the car for " any movement." Wakullah Street is a one-way street that lets out onto Rockland Street. The officers parked their marked cruiser on Rockland Street, where they could not see anyone entering or exiting the car. Officer McDonough then observed the livery car drive along Wakullah Street, turn left on Rockland Street (where the officers were parked), follow Rockland Street around a bend, and drive toward the intersection of Rockland and Dale Streets.

         The livery car driver had been dispatched to 4 Wakullah Street and picked up three male passengers there. According to the driver, the men were indecisive about where they wanted to go. As the livery car drove down Rockland Street, toward Dale Street, the officers followed in their cruiser, beginning about thirty yards away from it and coming within ten to fifteen yards of the car before it reached the intersection of Rockland and Dale Streets.

         The intersection of Rockland and Dale Streets contains a stop sign and a crosswalk, but no stop line. By Officer McDonough's account, which I credit, the livery car was driving at a " normal" speed and slowed down as it approached the intersection. However, the car did not stop at or before the stop sign, and instead drove through the intersection at approximately five miles an hour before coming to a complete stop in the middle of the intersection, within eight to ten feet of the edge of the crosswalk.

         By the livery driver's account, this aspect of which I credit, as he was reaching the intersection of Rockland and Dale Streets, the passengers were undecided as to where they wanted to go. One of the passengers instructed him to turn right while another instructed him to turn left. Because of this confusion and his efforts to learn their destination, the driver was not entirely attentive to when and where he came to a complete stop.

         Although the livery driver has provided various contradictory testimony regarding the matter, I find that he did not come to a full stop before the stop sign, but at most slowed down while trying to decipher where the passengers wanted to go.[3]

         On the basis that the driver had violated a traffic law by failing to stop at the stop sign, Officer McDonough activated the emergency lights and sirens on his police cruiser to conduct a traffic stop.

         2. Events Following the Traffic Stop

         After Officer McDonough activated his lights and sirens, the livery car turned right on Dale Street, seemingly in response to the indication that it was being stopped by the police cruiser. As the car came to a complete stop, the rear passenger side door of the car opened and a man exited quickly, running away from the officers along Dale Street toward Washington Street. Officers Ramos and McDonough immediately pursued the fleeing man. Officer McDonough observed that the man held his right arm close to his side, while

Page 404

pumping his left arm, which in the officer's experience indicated illegal possession of a weapon.

         Officers John Quinn and Jeff Connolly, who were in plain clothes in an unmarked but recognizable police vehicle, were also patrolling the area when they turned onto Dale Street from Washington Street and saw the stopped cars and the chase underway. Officer Quinn joined the pursuit, while Officer Connolly heeded Officer McDonough's instruction over the radio to stay with the stopped car.

         Officer Connolly heard from Officer McDonough that there were more people in the stopped livery car, and understood that he should investigate, despite not knowing the reason for the initial stop or why one of the passengers had fled. He had, however, made the same observation as Officer Quinn that the fleeing man held one arm close to his waistband. He approached the car with his flashlight and firearm in the " low ready position" yelling " show me your hands," and observed a driver and two men in the rear of the vehicle who were moving around.

         The driver had his hands on the steering wheel, and Officer Connolly concluded that he did not pose an immediate threat. The officer observed the passenger on the driver's side, Antoine Brown, place his hands near his chest or chin. Officer Connolly also observed Dardy, the passenger who was seated in the middle, " move down forward in a crouching position" toward the passenger seat, such that the officer lost sight of him. The livery driver stated that he believed, and I credit as true, that Dardy was trying to hide something made of metal under the front passenger seat, but there was an iron bar blocking the space.

         Officer Connolly gave verbal commands for Brown, who was closest to him, to exit the vehicle. Brown did not respond quickly enough, so the officer opened the back driver's side door and removed him. After removing Brown, Officer Connolly immediately went back into the vehicle with his flashlight and firearm and again observed Dardy leaning down in a crouched position and saw that his hands were on a firearm on the floor between his feet. Officer Connolly ordered Dardy to put his hands by his face, and Dardy complied. He then ordered Dardy to get out of the vehicle and lie on the ground, which Dardy did. The driver was not ordered out of the car until another officer arrived on the scene.

         After another officer arrived, Brown, Dardy, and the driver were placed in handcuffs. The driver, having learned about the gun from the officers, gave them permission to search the vehicle. Officer Connolly also conducted a patfrisk search of Dardy and recovered from his sock six individually wrapped items that appeared to be crack cocaine. The gun was not removed from the car until detectives arrived.

         B. Procedural History

         Dardy was arrested on July 11, 2013 following the patfrisk search. He was indicted by a grand jury on November 13, 2013, on one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). After a hearing on his motion to suppress during which I announced I would deny it, Dardy unconditionally pled guilty. These findings and conclusions are set forth herein to provide ...

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