United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
SUPPRESS (DOCKET NO. 55)
TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE
United States of America (the “Government”)
charged Christopher Brown (“Defendant”) with
being a felon in possession of firearm and ammunition.
(Docket No. 1). Defendant moves to suppress the evidence of a
firearm. (Docket No. 55). For the following reasons, the
Court denies the motion.
November 25, 2018, Worcester Police Gang Unit Officer Trevis
Coleman (“Officer Coleman”) received a call from
another officer requesting assistance with a traffic stop.
(Docket No. 1-1 at 2). On his way to the traffic stop,
Officer Coleman witnessed the Defendant exit an SUV parked in
front of the Royal Worcester Apartments on Wyman Street.
(Docket No. 1-1 at 2). Officer Coleman recognized the
Defendant and knew him to be a convicted felon. (Docket No.
1-1 at 2). Officer Coleman observed what appeared to be the
butt of a firearm protruding from the Defendant's
waistband. (Docket No. 1-1 at 2). Because Officer Coleman
knew the Defendant could not legally carry a gun, he stopped
his cruiser and approached. (Docket No. 1-1 at 2).
Coleman instructed the Defendant to put his hands behind his
back and attempted to handcuff him. (Docket No. 1-1 at 2).
The Defendant resisted. (Docket No. 1-1 at 2). Officer
Coleman grabbed the Defendant's torso and felt around his
waist for a firearm. (Docket No. 1-1 at 2). The Defendant
broke free and tried to enter the Royal Worcester Apartments.
(Docket No. 1-1 at 2). Officer Coleman prevented the
Defendant from entering the building and detained him.
(Docket No. 1-1 at 2). Backup officers arrived, and once they
had secured the Defendant, Officer Coleman returned to the
area of Wyman Street where he had initially stopped the
Defendant. (Docket No. 1-1 at 3). He retrieved a black
firearm containing four rounds of ammunition. (Docket No. 1-1
Government charged Defendant with being a felon in possession
of firearm and ammunition. (Docket No. 1). Defendant moved to
suppress on September 26, 2019. (Docket No. 55).
Lawfulness of the Stop
argues that the Court should suppress evidence of the firearm
because the Government obtained it during an unlawful stop.
The Court disagrees.
Fourth Amendment guarantees “[t]he right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” In
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the Supreme Court
held that “a police officer may in appropriate
circumstances and in an appropriate manner approach a person
for purposes of investigating possibly criminal behavior even
though there is no probable cause to make an arrest.”
Id. at 22. Specifically, an officer may stop an
individual if the officer has “reasonable suspicion
that the person is or has been engaged in criminal
activity.” United States v. Brake, 666 F.3d
800, 804 (1st Cir. 2011). Reasonable suspicion “must be
premised upon ‘a particularized and objective basis for
suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal
activity.'” United States v. Pontoo, 666
F.3d 20, 27-28 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting United States v.
Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18 (1981)).
Officer Coleman had a lawful basis to stop the Defendant.
While driving by the Defendant, Officer Coleman observed
what, based on his five years serving on the police force and
his many firearm arrests, he believed to be the butt of a
firearm in the Defendant's waistband. Officer Coleman
also recognized the Defendant and knew that, as a convicted
felon, the Defendant could not lawfully possess any firearm.
Officer Coleman thus had a reasonable suspicion that
Defendant was engaging in criminal activity, i.e., possessing
a firearm as a convicted felon. See United States v.
Hart, 334 F.Supp.2d 5, 11 (D. Mass. 2003).
stop, moreover, remained lawful throughout the encounter.
“Where an investigatory stop is justified at its
inception, it will generally not morph into a de facto arrest
as long as ‘the actions undertaken by the officer[s]
following the stop were reasonably responsive to the
circumstances justifying the stop in the first place as
augmented by information gleaned by the officer[s] during the
stop.'” United States v. Chaney, 647 F.3d
401, 409 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting United States v.
Trueber, 238 F.3d 79, 92 (1st Cir. 2001)). Officer
Coleman had a reasonable suspicion that the Defendant was
armed and dangerous, and his initial attempt to handcuff the
Defendant was a reasonable measure designed to neutralize
risk and protect himself from harm. And while Officer
Coleman's actions escalated during the encounter, the
Defendant's resistance and efforts to break free
justified that escalation.
extent that Defendant argues that suppression is nonetheless
warranted because the criminal nature of the firearm was not
apparent under the plain view doctrine, the Court disagrees.
Even assuming arguendo that Officer Coleman lacked
probable cause as to the criminal nature of the firearm-which
this Court doubts-the plain view doctrine is inapplicable in
this case. The Government asserts that Officer Coleman
lawfully obtained the evidence pursuant to a Terry
stop predicated on a reasonable suspicion that Defendant ...