Appeal from the Order Entered September 17, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-CR-0013472-2011
BEFORE: BENDER, P.J., SHOGAN, J., and FITZGERALD, J. [*]
The Commonwealth, as appellant, appeals from the trial court's September 17, 2012 order granting David Long's motion to suppress evidence seized by police officers pursuant to an investigative detention of Long, which the trial court concluded was not supported by reasonable suspicion. After careful review, we affirm.
Long was arrested on September 27, 2011, and charged with various violations of the Uniform Firearms Act, 18 Pa.C.S. §§ 6101-6187, including possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, carrying a firearm without a license, and carrying a firearm on public property in Philadelphia. Prior to trial, Long filed a motion to suppress and a hearing was conducted on September 17, 2012. At the close thereof, the trial court granted Long's motion to suppress. The Commonwealth filed a timely motion for reconsideration, which the court denied. The Commonwealth then filed a timely notice of appeal and a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). Herein, the Commonwealth presents one question for our review:
Where police investigating a recent gunpoint robbery that occurred less than two blocks away approached [Long] and his companion, who were generally consistent with the flash description of the suspects, at night in a high crime area, [Long] began walking away as soon as he saw the police, and when they told him to stop [Long] fled and discarded a shotgun, did the lower court err in suppressing it?
Commonwealth's Brief at 3.
Initially, we note our standard of review of the Commonwealth's claim:
When reviewing the propriety of a suppression order, an appellate court is required to determine whether the record supports the suppression court's factual findings and whether the inferences and legal conclusions drawn by the suppression court from those findings are appropriate. Where the [appellee] prevailed in the suppression court, we may consider only the evidence of the [appellee] and so much of the evidence for the Commonwealth as remains uncontradicted when read in the context of the record as a whole. Where the record supports the factual findings of the suppression court, we are bound by those facts and may reverse only if the legal conclusions drawn therefrom are in error. However, where the appeal of the determination of the suppression court turns on allegations of legal error, the suppression court's conclusions of law are not binding on an appellate court, whose duty it is to determine if the suppression court properly applied the law to the facts.
Commonwealth v. Walls, 53 A.3d 889, 892 (Pa. Super. 2012) (quoting Commonwealth v. Peterson, 17 A.3d 935, 937 (Pa. Super. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted), appeal denied, 29 A.3d 372 (Pa. 2011)).
At the suppression hearing conducted in this case, Philadelphia Police Officer Antoine Wesley testified that on September 27, 2011, at approximately 9:00 p.m., he and his partner, Officer Diggs, received a report of an armed robbery. N.T. Suppression Hearing, 9/17/12, at 5-6. In response, the officers, who were in full uniform and were riding in an unmarked police vehicle, traveled to the area of 69th and Guyer Streets. Id. at 6. Officer Wesley described that location as a "high-crime area" known for "[a] lot of auto thefts and … robberies." Id. at 6-7.
Officer Wesley, the driver of the unmarked vehicle, testified that when he turned the vehicle onto 69th Street, he observed two men, later identified as Long and his father, David Wiggins, "standing close … together … next to a dark colored SUV[.]" Id. Officer Wesley stated that Long and Wiggins "looked in our direction as we turned, " and then "started to walk off…." Id. at 7-8. The officer stopped the unmarked police car "short of [the] SUV" and he and Officer Diggs "exited the vehicle." Id. at 9. Officer Wesley further testified:
[Officer Wesley]: … Once we exited the vehicle, my partner, he took the pavement side and started walking towards the male. I took the street side walking into the park. This park, Your Honor, has a chain [link] fence maybe about eight feet tall, which separates the football field from the buildings of the recreational center but it's ...