Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex
Heard: September 8, 2016.
received and sworn to in the Cambridge Division of the
District Court Department on June 30, 2006. A pretrial motion
to suppress evidence was heard by James L. LaMothe, Jr., J.,
and a motion for reconsideration was considered by him; and
the case was heard by Michele B. Hogan, J.
review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court
granted leave to obtain further appellate review.
Gerson for the defendant.
Randall F. Maas, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy,
& Budd, JJ.
jury-waived trial in the Cambridge District Court, the
defendant was convicted of various firearms charges. The
firearm was discovered after the defendant and a group of
young black males were stopped by Cambridge police officers
to investigate a report of shots fired at a vehicle. The
defendant filed a motion to suppress the firearm, claiming
that the police lacked reasonable suspicion for the stop. The
motion judge denied the motion, as well as a motion for
reconsideration thereof filed in light of our decisions in
Commonwealth v. Martin, 457 Mass.
14 (2010), and Commonwealth v.
Narcisse, 457 Mass. 1 (2010) The defendant appealed from
his convictions and the Appeals Court affirmed in an
unpublished memorandum and order issued pursuant to its rule
1:28. We allowed the defendant's application for further
appellate review. We conclude that the police lacked
reasonable suspicion for the stop and that the denial of the
motion to suppress was error. Therefore, we vacate the
conviction and remand for a new trial.
summarize the facts as found by the motion judge,
supplemented by uncontroverted evidence drawn from the record
of the suppression hearing and evidence that was implicitly
credited by the judge. Commonwealth v.
Melo, 472 Mass. 278, 286 (2015).
late evening hours of April 29, 2006, Debra Santos reported
to police that a gunshot struck her vehicle as she was
driving on Windsor Street in Cambridge. At approximately
10:50 £.M., Cambridge police officers Janie Munro and
David Porter met Santos at the intersection of Windsor and
Washington Streets, near the location where the shots
allegedly were fired. Santos told the police that she heard a
loud noise that she believed was a gunshot and that
immediately thereafter she saw a group of young black males
run into the courtyard of the Washington Elms housing
complex. She did not indicate to the police that this group
was involved in the shooting at her vehicle, and she provided
no additional descriptive information about the individuals
she had seen running into the courtyard.
speaking to Santos, Officer Munro observed a group of young
black males who were standing on a sidewalk near the
Washington Street entrance to the housing complex. The group
was "[l]iterally right around the corner" from
where Santos had stopped after hearing what she believed to
be gunshots. Officer Munro's attention was drawn to the
group by one of the males who "st[u]ck his head outside
[of the courtyard] and st[u]ck his head back inside."
The officers drove their cruiser to where the group was
standing and approached the group on foot. The defendant, one
of five or six young black males in the group, was wearing a
black bomber jacket with a visibly distinctive orange lining.
The officers asked if anyone had information about gunshots
being fired in the area. They denied any knowledge of a
questioning the group, the officers requested permission to
pat frisk them for "officer safety." At the time of
this request, the police officers had had no prior
interaction with any of the young men in the group and no
information that anyone previously had been involved in
criminal activity. The judge made no finding that the
defendant or anyone else in the group engaged in suspicious
or potentially threatening conduct toward the police at any
time during the encounter. Up until the request to pat frisk
the group, the tone had been conversational. But thereafter,
the young men expressed their displeasure with the stop and
with being asked to submit to a patfrisk. Some of them
submitted to the officers' request but they were
"unhappy" about it. The judge made no finding that
the defendant consented to the patfrisk.
defendant became argumentative when the police began pat
frisking some members of the group, and he attempted to
terminate the encounter by walking away. As the defendant
"started moving backwards" away from the group, one
of the officers started pursuing him. The defendant turned
and began running away from the area. The officers yelled,
"Cambridge police, stop, " and pursued the
defendant into the housing complex. The defendant ignored the
order to stop and continued running. During the chase, the
defendant passed Santos, who grabbed his clothing, slowing
his flight from the area. After a brief chase, the police
eventually caught up to the defendant on Windsor Street where
he was "assisted to the ground" by Officer Porter.
As the defendant was being brought to his feet, the officers
discovered a firearm that had been underneath his body.
Although Santos remained on the scene while the police
investigated the group, the police did not ask if she could
identify anyone as being in the group of young men she
observed running into the courtyard after hearing the
judge explicitly credited Officer Munro's testimony that,
at the time the police initiated the pursuit of the defendant
into the courtyard, she had "no information" that
the defendant was a suspect in the shots fired call or any
other crime. Consistent with this finding, Officer Porter
acknowledged that, at the time of the request to pat frisk
the group, he had no information implicating the defendant or
any of the other young black males in criminal activity.
Officer Porter agreed that ...