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United States v. Parrott

November 20, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
PHILLIP PARROTT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant Phillip Parrott's Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence. (Doc. No. 23.) A suppression hearing was held on October 26, 2009. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion was denied on November 18, 2009. (Doc. No. 41.).

I. BACKGROUND

On April 14, 2009, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Defendant, Phillip Parrott, with a single count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). (Doc. No. 10.) On September 16, 2009, Defendant filed the instant Motion seeking to suppress the shotgun recovered by the police at the time of his arrest.(Doc. No. 23.) The Government filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion. (Doc. No. 29.) At the suppression hearing on October 26, 2009, the sole testifying witness was Officer Janeen Jones, of the Philadelphia Police Department. Officer Jones conducted the search that resulted in the seizure of the shotgun.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

In the early morning hours of November 30, 2009, Officer Jones and her partner were in a marked police car patrolling the streets of the City of Philadelphia. (Hr'g Tr. 5-6, 26, Oct. 26, 2009.) At approximately 1:30 a.m., they received a call over the police radio about an individual with a gun in the 3600 block of North Bouvier Street. (Id. at 6-7.) While en route to investigate, they received another radio call about shots being fired at the same location. (Id.) After turning onto the 3600 block of North Bouvier Street, Jones saw Defendant standing next to the last house on the block at the corner of Bouvier and Pacific Streets. (Id. at 7-8.) The street was well illuminated by the streetlights and Defendant was holding "a long dark object in his hand." (Id. at 9.) As the officers approached Defendant, Jones saw that Defendant was holding a gun, which Jones's partner recognized as a shotgun. (Id. at 10-11, 31.) Jones's partner, who was driving, stopped the car about 20 to 30 feet from Defendant and both officers exited the car. (Id. at 8-9.) The Officers drew their guns and then yelled at Defendant to drop his weapon and put his hands up. (Id. at 11, 35-36.) Defendant turned and ran into the house in front of which he was standing. (Id. at 11.) At this point, based on the information available to them, the officers had probable cause to arrest Defendant for carrying a firearm on a public street in Philadelphia in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6108. See United States v. Meyers, 308 F.3d 251, 255 (3d Cir. 2002) (noting that probable cause for an arrest exists when "reasonably trustworthy information or circumstances within a police officer's knowledge are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution to conclude that an offense has been committed by the person being arrested"); see also United States. v. Bond, 173 F. App'x 144, 146 (3d Cir. 2006) (analyzing decisions of Pennsylvania courts pertaining to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6108 and concluding that officers had probable cause to arrest the defendant after observing him with a gun on a Philadelphia street).

Out of concern for their safety, Jones and her partner did not follow Defendant into the house. (Id. at 14.) Jones had prior experience in responding to calls concerning individuals with guns and in entering houses, and she and her partner were concerned that Defendant "could be standing right behind the door waiting for [them] to attempt to kick the door in and shoot [them]." (Id. at 14.) Jones and her partner set up a perimeter around the house to ensure that Defendant did not flee from the house with the gun, and they waited for backup to arrive. (Id. at 14-15.)

As other officers began arriving on the scene, a female leaned out of a window of the house, asking about the cause of the commotion. (Id. at 15.) Jones and her partner repeatedly requested that the woman open the front door and tell them where the man with the gun was, but the woman at first denied that anyone had entered the house and later stated that the man had run out the back door. (Id. at 16.) The Officers had not seen anyone exit the rear of the house. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, the woman opened the front door, and three adults and a number of juveniles came out. (Id. at 16-17, 44.) Defendant was not one of those exiting the home. (Id. at 17.) None of the people exiting the house had a gun. (Id.) The woman with whom Jones had conversed through the window was one of the people who came out of the house, and she told Jones that nobody else was in the house. (Id. at 18.)

About five minutes later, as the officers were attempting to ascertain if anyone remained in the house, Defendant came to the top of the internal staircase between the first and second floors, which was visible from the front door. (Id. at 19, 45.) He stated that he had been in bed and asked what was going on. (Id. at 19.) As he started coming down the stairs, officers approached him and led him out of the house. (Id. at 19.) Jones identified Defendant as the man that she had seen earlier with the gun and Defendant was arrested and placed in handcuffs. (Id.)

At this point, Jones, along with other officers, entered the house. (Id. at 21.) They did not have a search warrant. (Id.) It would have taken several hours to obtain one. (Id.) The police were not sure what they were dealing with and they had a number of concerns based on their observations of Defendant and his actions, the radio report of shots having been fired at this location, and the fact that the gun was still inside the house. (Id. at 21-22.) Their concerns were heightened by the false statements made by the woman at the window that nobody had entered the house, that the gunman had run out the back, and that nobody remained inside after she had come outside with the others. (Id. at 20-21) The officers did not know if there had been a home invasion, whether there was an injured person in the house, or whether there was someone in the house with the shotgun. (Id. at 17-18, 21.)

Once inside the house, Jones cleared the first floor, making sure that there was nobody hurt or hiding there. (Id. at 23.) She then proceeded to the basement. (Id.) While clearing the basement, her foot inadvertently struck an object that was underneath a blanket on the floor. (Id.) The heavy metallic sound that the object made on the concrete floor, along with its weight, led Jones to believe that this was the gun that Defendant had been holding earlier outside the house. (Id. at 23-24.) The sound that the gun made on the concrete was a sound she had heard previously in her experience as a police officer. (Id.) To avoid accidently firing it, Jones did not grab the object. (Id. at 24.) Rather, she lifted the blanket. (Id.) The gun that Defendant had been holding when he ran into the house was under the blanket. (Id. at 24-25.)*fn1

III. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

The Fourth Amendment "protects people in their homes from unreasonable searches and seizures by permitting only a neutral and detached magistrate to review evidence and draw inferences to support the issuance of a search warrant." United States v. Coles, 437 F.3d 361 (3d. Cir. 2006) (citing Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14 (1948)). "[S]earches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment-subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions." Arizona v. Gant, 129 S.Ct. 1710, 1716 (2009) (quoting Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967)). Defendant asserts that the police had no probable cause or lawful justification to search the house on North Bouvier Street without a warrant. (Doc. No. 23 at 1.) According to Defendant, the search did not satisfy the requirements of the search-incident-to-arrest doctrine, as defined in Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969), and the circumstances of the search fell outside the bounds of a limited ...


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