from the Order Entered November 17, 2016 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Erie County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: LAZARUS, RANSOM, JJ., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, appeals from the November
17, 2016, order granting the pre-trial suppression motion
filed by Appellee, Dion Jerry Williams. Following our
careful review of the record and the law, we reverse the
suppression order and remand for further proceedings
consistent with this decision.
was charged with three counts of possession with the intent
to deliver a controlled substance ("PWID"), one
count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and two counts of
possession of a controlled substance. On September 22, 2016, with
the assistance of counsel, he filed an omnibus pre-trial
motion seeking to suppress physical evidence seized by the
police. On October 6, 2016, the matter proceeded to a
suppression hearing, at which the Commonwealth presented the
testimony of Erie Police Officers Steven Deluca, Ira Bush,
and Jason Russell.
Officer Steven Deluca, who is a seventeen year veteran of the
Erie Police Department, testified that, on March 18, 2016, at
approximately 11:00 p.m., he responded to a 911 call for a
shooting at 1016 West 4th Street. N.T., 10/6/16,
at 5. Upon arrival, he noticed there was "blood all over
the sidewalk leading up to the side of [the] residence."
Id. at 6. Officer Deluca followed the blood trail,
discovering a dead pit bull, which had been shot numerous
times, lying in the backyard, and blood "everywhere,
" including outside the entry of the first floor
apartment. Id. at 15-16. Officer Deluca proceeded to
the second floor apartment and discovered a white male, who
had been shot in the leg and face. Id. at 6. Officer
Deluca and other responding police units checked the second
floor apartment and surrounding backyard for other victims,
as well as the shooter, and after finding neither,
interviewed the neighbors. Id.
neighbor informed Officer Deluca that Appellee lived in the
first floor apartment, and he saw one of Appellee's
vehicles, a gray BMW, leaving the area at about the time of
the shooting. Id. at 7-8. Officer Deluca looked in
the windows of the first floor apartment and discovered that
no one was home; he was then advised that the other vehicle
associated with Appellee's apartment was gone.
Id. at 9. Officer Deluca passed on the information
to other patrol officers, and Appellee's gray BMW was
later stopped by Officer Russell. Id.
informed Officer Russell that he was staying at the Knights
Inn with a male friend because of ongoing domestic issues
with his girlfriend. Id. at 10. The Knights Inn is
"just blocks from the shooting and traffic stop"
locations. See Trial Court Opinion, filed 11/17/16,
at 2. Appellee showed the officer a key card, indicated it
was for room 111 of the Knights Inn, and informed the officer
that he was in the room at the time of the shooting. N.T.,
10/6/16, at 10.
on this information, which was relayed to Officer Deluca, at
approximately 12:30 a.m. on March 19, 2016, Officer Deluca
went to room 111 of the Knights Inn, "banged on the
door, " and said, "Erie police. Come out. We need
to talk to you." Id. No one responded to
Officer Deluca's knocking and announcing, so he tried the
key card, which did not open room 111. Id. at 11.
Deluca proceeded to the front desk and was advised by the
manager that the key card, which had been in Appellee's
possession, was not for room 111. Id. The manager,
who scanned the key card, indicated the key card was for room
231; however, the registry information related to the room
"was missing or misplaced or never existed" such
that the manager could not tell the officer who had rented or
was occupying the room. Id. In comparison to room
111, room 231 was on the "complete opposite side of the
motel, the second floor versus the first floor."
Id. at 21. Believing that another victim from the
shooting might be in room 231, Officer Deluca proceeded to
the room. Id. at 12, 21.
Deluca knocked and announced his presence at room 231, but
there was no response. Id. Accordingly, he used the
key card and opened the door to room 231, at which time he
smelled a strong odor of marijuana and observed in plain view
a duffle bag with money sticking out of it, a clear Mason jar
of marijuana, and a white powdery substance. Id. He
did a quick, three second sweep of the room for people,
retreated from the room empty-handed, telephoned the district
attorney's office, and requested a search warrant for the
room. Id. at 13. A search warrant was secured and
executed upon the room. Id. at 14.
cross-examination, Officer Deluca clarified that, from the
time he arrived at the Knights Inn until he opened room 231,
approximately ten minutes had elapsed. Id. at 22.
Officer Deluca admitted that, during this time, Appellee was
in police custody; however, based on the address of the
shooting, the description of Appellee's vehicle fleeing
the scene, and "the totality of everything that was
known to [him] at that exact time, " he believed an
injured victim or participant was in the Knights Inn room.
Id. at 23.
Deluca indicated that he requested Knights Inn employees gain
access to the hotel's surveillance tapes before he
entered room 231, but the employees were unable to do so.
Id. at 24. He testified that he did not wait for a
warrant at this point because "the exigent circumstance
of going into that room was more prevalent than waiting for a
Officer Ira Bush, a thirteen year veteran of the Erie Police
Department, testified that he also responded to the 911 call
for the shooting at issue. Id. at 27. He noticed
"blood all over the place[, ]" a dog dying the
backyard, and a man who had been shot in the face.
Id. at 27-28. He looked in the windows of the first
floor apartment and noticed it appeared as if the apartment
had been vacated quickly with phone chargers and a ketchup
bottle strewn about the floor. Id. at 28. Neighbors
Bush that Appellee, who lived in the first floor apartment,
was "a drug dealer." Id. at 29. Officer
Bush heard over the police radio that a neighbor informed the
police that a vehicle fitting the description of
Appellee's vehicle was seen "speeding away"
from the scene "right after" the shooting.
Id. at 35-36, 41.
Bush testified he responded to the Knights Inn with Officer
Deluca and confirmed that the police spoke to the desk
manager after the key card at issue did not open room 111.
Id. at 38. He testified the desk manager scanned the
key card and told the police the key card would open room 231
but not room 111. Id. at 39. The manager indicated
that the hotel had no record or information as to who had
rented the room; however, only one key card had been issued
for the room. Id. at 30, 38-39. Further, the manager
could not access the video surveillance system.
Jason Russell testified that he also responded to the 911
call for the shooting, and upon arrival, he observed the
gunshot victim, one or two dead animals in the backyard, an
"extensive amount of blood, and what appeared to be two
separate types of projectiles, both slug rounds[.]"
Id. at 45. Officer Russell indicated that neighbors
informed the police that a vehicle matching Appellee's
gray sedan was seen ...