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United States v. Elmore

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 11, 2019



          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

         Defendant Quantae Elmore (“Elmore” or “defendant”) has been indicted on one count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The indictment also includes a criminal forfeiture allegation.

         Before the Court is defendant's motion to suppress a loaded gun and ammunition obtained during a Terry stop and frisk in May, 2018. For the reasons that follow, that motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         A. The Earlier Shootings

         In the early morning of May 4, 2018, a member of the Orchard Park (“OP”) gang was shot. A subsequent investigation of that shooting by officers revealed that there was a potential split between the OP and Heath Street (“HS”) gangs which had previously been aligned.

         Around 9:40 P.M. that evening, several people were shot inside a housing complex in Jamaica Plain that was frequented by HS members. As a result of the two shootings, four police officers from the Boston Police Department's Youth Violence Strike Force were sent to patrol the Orchard Gardens Housing Development in Roxbury's Dudley Square. That area is associated with the OP gang. The officers were sent to investigate OP's possible connection to the shooting in Jamaica Plain.

         B. The Police Officers' Observations and Surveillance Video of the Stop and Frisk

         Around 9:55 P.M., the officers arrived at the Orchard Gardens Housing Development in an unmarked vehicle. They traveled along Ziegler Street in the direction of Winslow Street with their lights activated. As they passed Winslow Street, they noticed a white Scion with two African-American males identified as Geovonnie Mitchell (“Mitchell”) and Alex Slaughter (“Slaughter”) walking toward the car. The officers knew Mitchell was a member of OP.

         The officers briefly stopped their vehicle next to the white Scion but then continued down Ziegler Street. At about that time, the officers were informed, via radio transmission, that a small white vehicle occupied by an African-American male was seen speeding away from the Jamaica Plain shooting 15 minutes earlier. Another transmission over a different channel broadcast noted that the suspect was seen wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt but Officer Antoine Ramos (“Officer Ramos”), who was driving the police cruiser, testified that he was unaware of that detail that night. The officers circled back around the block to investigate the white Scion and the individuals of interest.

         A surveillance video shows that shortly after the officers made their initial pass on Ziegler Street, Elmore, an African-American male, was dropped off near the intersection of Dudley Street and Greenville Street by a friend. The video shows Elmore walking along Winslow Street toward Ziegler Street while talking on a cellphone. He was wearing a black T-shirt and khaki pants but no sweatshirt. He was walking somewhat behind a group of other young men.

         The group of men and Elmore then turned right onto Ziegler Street and approached the white Scion. Elmore stopped next to the car and Slaughter opened the passenger door. Elmore leaned inside the vehicle while still talking on his cellphone. The group was still gathered around the Scion when the unmarked cruiser turned back onto Ziegler Street and Officer Ramos immediately activated the lights as they approached the car.

         Officer Ramos contends that he observed a group of known OP and Vine and Forest Street (“VnF”) gang members surrounding the Scion. He also credibly testified that he observed Elmore, who he knew from prior encounters with police, standing next to the car. Officer Ramos knew Elmore to be a member of the VnF gang which was closely aligned with OP. He was also aware that Elmore had prior firearm arrests. Officer Ramos testifed that as the cruiser approached the Scion, he observed Elmore look at their vehicle with an alarmed expression and immediately grab at the front of his waistband.

         According to Officer Ramos, Elmore then turned and walked away from the group of young men. The cruiser stopped directly behind the Scion and the officers immediately got out and approached the group. They were in plain clothes but wearing tactical vests with “Boston Police” displayed on the front. Most of the group of young men started walking ...

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