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United States of America v. Hakeem Paris

June 27, 2012


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


Hakeem Paris has been indicted for conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, attempted robbery, two counts of carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence, and one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. These charges arise out of the robbery of Bridesburg Pizza at 4776 Richmond Street in Philadelphia on May 10, 2010, and the attempted robbery of a Wawa convenience store located at 4371 Richmond Street in Philadelphia on May 23, 2010. The defendant has moved to suppress evidence recovered on May 23, 2010, from a car in which he was a passenger and the identification of him from a photo array by a witness to the Bridesburg Pizza robbery that occurred on May 10, 2010. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on June 12, 2012. The Court will deny both aspects of the motion.*fn1

I. Findings of Fact

The Court will separate the findings of fact into those

that relate to the stopping of the car and seizure of the evidence from those that relate to the identification of the defendant.

A. Stopping of the Car and Seizure of the Evidence Officer Patrick Biles has been with the Philadelphia

Police Department for eighteen years, and Officer Christopher Rommel for fifteen years. They currently are with the 15th District Patrol Unit. They were working on May 23, 2010, in uniform, in a marked radio patrol car on the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. At about 2 a.m., they received a radio call concerning an incident taking place at a Wawa near Gillingham and Richmond Streets. The call was for a man with a gun and/or a robbery in progress. They went to the Wawa where they talked to two store employees in the parking lot outside of the Wawa who told them about an incident that had transpired a few minutes before their arrival. They were at that location within a matter of minutes after receiving the radio call.

The information they received from the two employees was that a black male entered the store wearing a black jacket with very long dreadlocks, a Jamaican type hat - multi colored, and sunglasses. The male employee, Jason Erb, told the police that the male had a gun in his right pants pocket. Mr. Erb told the police that he had a brief conversation with this black male in reference to the daily newspaper and that the male then left the store. The Wawa employees also said that they had received information from the Town Watch that there was a robbery at another location and to be on the look out for a male with dreadlocks and a Jamaican multi colored hat.

While the officers were taking the information from the store employees, Officer Biles observed a dark color four door sedan traveling westbound on the 2800 block of Gillingham which borders the Wawa property. He was 50 to 60 feet away from the car, and the car was going about 15 miles per hour. Officer Biles was attracted to the vehicle initially because it was operating without headlights. It is a violation of Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Code 4303A to drive in the Commonwealth at night with headlights off. Secondly, he observed that the driver was a black male with braids. Because the initial information was that the male had long dreadlocks, and dreadlocks can be confused with braids, Officer Biles thought that the driver may have come into the Wawa and that the officer should stop the car and investigate.

As they were following the vehicle, Officer Rommel, who was acting as the recorder, entered the tag information into the computer to conduct an NCIC DMV check. Everything was in order. At some point, Officer Biles, who was driving, activated the emergency lights and sirens in the radio patrol car and stopped the vehicle in front of 2864 Orthodox Street for investigation. After he stopped the vehicle, Officer Biles yelled out of his window that the occupant should shut the vehicle off. The driver immediately turned off the vehicle, took out his keys and placed them on the roof of the vehicle. The officer had not ordered the driver to put the keys on the roof.

As they got out of their vehicle, Officer Rommel went to the driver's side of the vehicle. He would normally go to the passenger side but because he did not see any passenger, he went to the driver's side. Officer Rommel had out his flashlight and shined it into the vehicle. At that time, Officer Biles noticed a person, who was later identified as the defendant, reclining all the way back in the passenger's seat. Officer Biles, therefore, went to the passenger's side. The defendant was in a laying down position. He was squirming around leaning to his left. Officer Biles saw through the rear window a wig with Jamaican hat and dreadlocks that matched the description by the witnesses at the Wawa. He removed Mr. Paris from the vehicle and alerted Officer Rommel to the dreadlocks and hat. The wig and hat were on the floorboard behind the driver's seat.

Officer Rommel asked the driver, Christopher Hooks, for identification, license, registration and insurance. He began to get that information when Officer Biles said "Chris, back seat floor." Officer Rommel then noticed on the back seat floor there appeared to be braids with a multi colored hat. They had both people in the vehicle step out. He reached in and grabbed the hat with the braids and saw a gun that was inside that fell out. He recovered both of the items and both of the males were placed in handcuffs.

After the two occupants of the car were secured and evidence recovered, Officer Biles informed police radio of what had occurred. He asked for a marked patrol car to proceed to the Wawa to pick up the two store employees and bring them to the location to see if they could identify the male who was in the store. A car did pull up and Officer Biles was informed by radio that the defendant was identified as the person who was in the Wawa. Officer Biles does not know the name of the officer who brought the witness to the location. Mr. Paris was handcuffed standing on the highway in front of the police car. The officer who brought the witness utilized a 1/4 mile spotlight. The police cars have take down lights which illuminated the area in front of the vehicle very well. Officer Biles was on the left hand side with Mr. Paris and Officer Rommel was on the right hand side of the car with Mr. Hooks. They were standing side by side.

Officer Rommel saw the female witness in the police vehicle that came around for the potential ID. He thought that the car was about 20 to 25 feet away for the ID. His recollection is that both males were ...

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