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United States of America v. Calvin Hicks

October 27, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Juan R. Sanchez, J.


Sometime after 4:30 a.m. on December 27, 2008, Philadelphia Police Officer David Brown stopped a Range Rover in which Defendant Calvin Hicks was a passenger in connection with an ongoing investigation of an armed robbery of a business/residence on the same block only 15 to 30 minutes earlier. Hicks contends the stop was illegal and asks this Court to suppress all evidence derived from the stop, including evidence seized pursuant to search warrants issued for the Range Rover and for his girlfriend's residence, as well as his statement at the time of the stop.*fn1 Because this Court finds the stop was supported by reasonable suspicion, Hicks's motion is denied. FINDINGS OF FACT*fn2

1. Around 4:30 a.m. on December 27, 2008, while sleeping on a couch on the second floor of his home at 2420 Rhawn Street in Philadelphia, Anthony Sabatino was awakened by the sound of glass breaking. Sabatino was 14 years old at the time.

2. Thinking someone was breaking in, Sabatino went outside and walked west on Rhawn Street toward the corner of Rhawn and Leonard Streets, passing by Sunny's Grill & Beer (Sunny's), a business located at 2416 Rhawn Street with a residence above it. Both Sabatino's home and Sunny's were located on the south side of Rhawn Street, in the block between Leonard Street and Roosevelt Boulevard.

3. When he reached the corner, Sabatino saw people running south on Leonard Street. By the time Sabatino caught sight of these individuals, they were past the entrance to an alleyway that runs behind Sunny's. Sabatino watched the individuals run down the block to the next corner where they got into a vehicle which Sabatino described as a truck.

4. While Sabatino was at the corner of Rhawn and Leonard, he saw a gray Range Rover with "big rims" approach the intersection from the west and turn south onto Leonard Street, honking the horn. Sabatino could not identify the vehicle's two occupants because they covered their faces as they drove by; however, he believed the Range Rover was the same vehicle which the individuals he had seen running down Leonard Street only moments earlier had entered.

5. Sabatino then returned to his house where, from the back door, he saw two people at Sunny's, one on the roof of the building and the other climbing down a ladder from the roof. Sabatino yelled out "what are you doing" or words to that effect as the two individuals ran in a southeast direction away from Sunny's toward the alley and then south down the alley parallel to Roosevelt Boulevard. Sabatino lost sight of the individuals when they turned south down the alley.

6. When the police arrived approximately five to ten minutes later,*fn3 Sabatino spoke with them outside of his house and gave them a summary of what he had witnessed, including a description of the Range Rover. Sabatino remained outside with the police until Hicks was arrested.*fn4

7. While on duty in the early morning on December 27, 2008, Officer Brown responded to a radio call regarding a home invasion robbery at Rhawn Street and Roosevelt Boulevard (the Sunny's robbery). The radio call included a description of a Range Rover with oversized chrome wheels which had been involved in the robbery.*fn5 Officer Brown did not recall whether the description included the color of the Range Rover.

8. Upon his arrival at the scene, Officer Brown proceeded to survey the area, but he did not see the Range Rover. He then returned to the intersection of Rhawn Street and Roosevelt Boulevard where he assisted in wrapping up the investigation. While parked in a parking lot on the north side of Rhawn Street just west of Roosevelt Boulevard, Officer Brown saw a vehicle fitting the description of the Range Rover with oversized chrome wheels facing east on Rhawn Street. The Range Rover was stopped behind two other cars at the traffic light at the corner of Rhawn and Roosevelt.

9. Sabatino also noticed the Range Rover from where he was standing in the parking lot in front of his house and Sunny's, and told the police it was the vehicle he had seen driving down Leonard Street blowing its horn, although there is no evidence Sabatino spoke with Officer Brown. Sabatino estimated he pointed the vehicle out to the police about 15 to 20 minutes after he had seen it on Leonard Street, though he acknowledged it could have been as much as 30 minutes later.

10. Officer Brown pulled behind the Range Rover and activated his lights. After the driver pulled over, Officer Brown approached the passenger side of the vehicle, while his backup officer approached the driver's side. The Range Rover had three occupants: a woman in the driver's seat, Hicks in the passenger seat, and a young child in the back seat.

11. Officer Brown spoke with Hicks at the passenger side window, asking Hicks where he was going and why. Hicks explained he was going to a Walgreens at the intersection of Frankford and Bridge to get medicine for the baby in the back seat, who was sick. Hicks also stated he lived at Woodhaven Road and Roosevelt Boulevard, prompting Officer Brown to ask Hicks why he had not simply driven down Roosevelt Boulevard instead of driving east on Rhawn Street, and why he had not gone to one of several pharmacies closer to his home. Officer Brown testified Hicks did not have a satisfactory explanation.

12. While the Range Rover was pulled over, one of the victims of the robbery looked through the back window and identified "blunts" taken ...

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