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United States v. Starkey

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

November 4, 2014





Defendant Maurice Starkey (" Starkey") is charged in this case with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. ECF Doc. 8. Starkey moves to suppress all physical evidence discovered on his person and seized by officers of the City of Chester Police Department (" CCPD") during a warrantless search. Doc. 31, at 2. Upon consideration of Starkey's motion, the opposition thereto, and the parties' supplemental briefs, and after an evidentiary hearing on August 18, 2014, the Court finds as follows:

Findings of Fact

1. In the early morning hours on August 15, 2013, CCPD Officer Joseph Dougherty was patrolling the City in a marked police vehicle with his K-9 partner; CCPD Officers James Nolan and Matthew Steward patrolled in another marked unit. Mot. Suppress Hr'g Tr. (" Tr."), 8:13-17, 12:16-19, 24:22-25, 46:22-47:6, 68:21-25, 69:15-25, 70:7-12, August 18, 2014.

2. At approximately 12:54 a.m., a police radio dispatch went out based on a 9-1-1 call. Tr. 12:9-11, 22-24, 105:6-11. The police dispatcher stated that a robbery had just occurred whereby three black males attacked a white female or a white male, and the victim had a bag and a phone taken from him. Tr. 12:25-13:3, 14:15-18, 21:17-22:7; 17:19-18:9, 70:13-18. The dispatcher also included that the incident occurred at 22nd and Providence, which was approximately eight blocks from Officer Dougherty's location, and that the alleged perpetrators of the robbery were headed south on Providence. Tr. 13:10-20, 14: 5-18. No clothing description was provided in the dispatch. Tr. 21:17-22:7.

3. The reported robbery occurred in an area known as " the funnel." Tr. 8:13-23, 10:14-11:20. " The funnel" describes a section of Chester that extends from 16th street between Edgemont Avenue and Providence Avenue. Tr. 10:13-23. Officer Dougherty explained that during the years he patrolled " the funnel, " he heard gun shots every night and was involved in hundreds of arrests. Tr. 11:4-20. There, officers handled crimes spanning homicides, shootings, guns, drugs, robberies, and assaults. Tr. 10:24-11:3. Officer Nolan also testified he had already responded to calls of robberies, shootings, and domestic disputes in this neighborhood. Tr. 69:20-70:6.[1]

4. Officer Dougherty immediately responded to the dispatch call, by quickly driving to 18th and Providence; it took him only a matter of seconds to arrive to this area. Tr. 13:21-14:11. At that intersection, Officer Dougherty slowed his car. Tr. 13:21-15:5. From his experience, he predicted that this was the farthest south an individual could have traveled on foot in those few seconds. Id. Driving slowly, Officer Dougherty peered down alleys where he knew people cut through. Tr. 13:21-15:5.

5. While searching the area, he saw a group of three individuals around 20th and Providence. Tr. 15:6-12. The individuals had their backs to Officer Dougherty. Tr. 17:13-18. Officer Dougherty noticed one member of the group was wearing a hoodie, which seemed out of place for an August night. Tr. 17:19-18:4. He also thought he saw one member of the group carrying a bag.[2] Tr. 17:19-18:7. From his angle, Officer Dougherty was unable to determine the individuals' genders. Tr. 17:16-18.

6. He then announced the group's location -- that he had three individuals walking west on 20th Street -- over the police radio. Tr. 18:14-19:7. Officer Nolan heard this update. Tr. 70:13-18, 72:9-11.

7. Officer Dougherty then continued to look for other people in the area. Tr. 18:14-19:7. At 22nd and Providence, Officer Dougherty saw an individual who he believed to be the victim. Tr. 15:17-20. Officer Dougherty continued to circle the area. Tr. 15:17-16:6. He saw no one else. Tr. 18:14-19:7.

8. Finding no other people in the area, Officer Dougherty returned to the same group of three individuals. Tr. 18:14-19:12. Approximately two minutes had passed between the time that Officer Dougherty received the initial radio dispatch and the time that Officer Dougherty stopped the group. Tr. 18:14-19.

9. Once Officer Dougherty returned to the group, he asked them to come over to him. Tr. 19:5-12.

10. The three individuals started to move toward Officer Dougherty's car, in response to his request. Tr. 42:18-43:1.

11. As they approached, Officer Dougherty stated on the police radio, " I've got three at 20th and Potter. I'll be getting out with them." Tr. 61:14-62:5. The record is unclear as to whether Officers Nolan and Steward heard this update from Officer Dougherty over the radio.

12. As Officer Dougherty started to get out of the car, he realized the group was composed of two females and ...

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