United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM RE: MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS
case involving allegations of conspiracy to traffic drugs,
three of the nine defendants-Amir Boyer, Hans Gadson, and
Dennis Harmon (collectively, “Defendants”)-have
moved the Court for an order suppressing evidence seized
during a search of a residence located at 3234 N. Sydenham
Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (ECF 159, 215, 260,
295). For the following reasons, the Motions to Suppress will
Facts and Procedural History A. The Shooting
September 11, 2017, members of the Philadelphia Police
Department responded to a shooting on the 2700 block of North
22nd Street in Philadelphia around 5:40 P.M. A male victim
was transported to the hospital where he was later pronounced
dead, and several inconsistent reports were made about the
description of the shooter and a potential getaway vehicle.
Detective Justin Falcone interviewed a security guard from an
adjacent grocery store. The security guard, who heard but did
not see the shooting, reported seeing a black male in a white
t-shirt “hurriedly walk to a white SUV and exit the
area” after the shooting occurred. (ECF 283,
“5/30/19 Hearing Tr., ” at 10:5-9, 14:3-5,
34:7-8). Although he also mentioned a black male in a red
t-shirt who was across the street, the security guard
reported that he did not believe that man was involved in the
shooting. (Id. at 14:5-8). He then gave Detective
Falcone a piece of paper with a Pennsylvania license plate
number written on it, which he said he obtained from a patron
of the grocery store who could connect that license plate
number to the white SUV in question. (Id. at
10:9-12). The patron himself was not identified or
interviewed by police, and Detective Falcone did not speak to
anyone who actually saw the shooting. (Id. at
10:13-16, 34:3-35:20, 39:1-5). Although Detective Falcone had
the capability of listening to radio broadcasts and to call
the persons manning 911 calls to obtain information regarding
potential suspects, he did not hear any such broadcasts
reporting that the shooter was wearing a dark gray sweat
suit, that the shooter fled in a burgundy Jeep, or that the
shooter fled in a blue sedan. (Id. at 32:18-33:14).
Charles Rillera, who also responded to the scene, reported
interviewing an additional ten to fifteen people, but did not
feel that any of them gave credible statements. None of the
additional interviewees provided a description of the shooter
or a potential getaway vehicle. (Id. at 58:19-59:3).
Officer Rillera testified that he was aware of multiple
conflicting broadcasts reporting descriptions of the shooter
or shooters, including a report of a burgundy Jeep as the
getaway vehicle. (Id. at 94:14-95:3).
license plate number obtained by Detective Falcone was
broadcast over police radio and the Police Department's
citywide band. (Id. at 10:19-21). Officer Rillera
received the broadcast while in his squad car and ran the
reported license plate number through a Bureau of Motor
Vehicles database. (Id. at 60:6-16). The license
plate belonged to a white Jeep Cherokee that was registered
to Abdul West at 3234 N. Sydenham Street, Philadelphia.
(Id. at 60:18-19). Officer Rillera then drove to
that location with his partner, arriving at approximately
6:46 P.M. (Id. at 60:20-61:14). The white Jeep
Cherokee with the reported license plate number was parked on
the block, and Officer Rillera stopped to investigate. A
crowd of people in front of 3234 N. Sydenham Street then
dispersed. None of the people matched the description of the
shooter. (Id. at 61:22-63:4). Officer Rillera
determined that no one was inside or outside the Jeep that
would pose a danger to the public or his fellow officers.
(Id. at 63:19-24). However, he remained on scene to
search the immediate area for physical evidence that might be
related to the homicide. (Id. at
64:4-17). Other officers eventually arrived on
scene. (Id. at 65:13-19). One of those officers
found a set of keys on the ground that belonged to the white
Jeep in question. (Id. at 22:15-18; 72:7-12). At
7:20 P.M., Detective Falcone drove down the block with the
security guard who gave him the license plate number.
(Id. at 15:13-18). He did so to allow the security
guard to identify the Jeep Cherokee as the white SUV he saw
leaving the scene of the shooting. (Id. at
point, Harmon exited the home at 3234 N. Sydenham Street and
walked across the street. (Id. at 65:22-66:2). It is
unclear whether any of the officers saw Harmon exit the
property, though they noted him walk across the street and
then return to its porch. (Id. at 65:24- 66:7). Upon
his return, the officers began to question Harmon.
(Id. at 66:5-7). He told them that he lived at the
residence alone and that he did not know who owned the white
Jeep Cherokee registered to that address. (Id. at
69:11-15, 70:3-12). Harmon was never handcuffed or placed
under arrest, and he was eventually transported to the
Philadelphia Homicide Division for further questioning.
(Id. at 70:13-20, 86:20-22). Officer Rillera and his
partner remained on the scene. (Id. at 86:21-24).
The Warrantless Entry
Falcone and another detective arrived at 3234 N. Sydenham
Street at 7:50 P.M. that same evening. (Id. at
86:25-87:4). Detective Falcone informed the officers that the
home was being held for a search warrant and learned that the
officers had not yet entered the home. (Id. at
87:10-19). The officers determined that they should
“clear” or “sweep” the property at
that time. (Id. at 88:2-6). Officer Rillera
testified that, prior to entering the property,
“everything was under control” and admitted that
he did not express any concern that the shooter was in the
house. (Id. at 105:15-21). Although various officers
had been present outside the property in the proceeding two
hours, (id. at 110:13-20), no one suggested that
they secure the inside of the home before Detective Falcone
arrived. (Id. at 110:21-23).
law enforcement officers, Detectives Falcon and Sweeny and
Officers Rillera and Nelson, then entered the premises, and
exited at approximately 8 P.M. (Id. at 88:5-6,
118:6-9). No. one was discovered inside, but Detective
Falcone testified that marijuana, narcotics, and items
related to narcotics were in plain view as the officers
secured the inside of the premises. (Id. at
26:13-27:11). He relayed this information to Detective Brian
Peters of the Homicide Division. (Id. at 31:12-16).
Rillera admitted that he reentered the home one time to
secure the back door after securing the premises.
(Id. at 120:23-121:1). Other than that, although
poll camera video shows the officers walking up to the porch
and remaining out of view for periods of time following the
initial entry, (Id. at 126:18-127:12), it is unclear
from the video or testimony that anyone reentered the front
door of the home after the sweep was concluded, and prior to
receiving a warrant.
The 2017 Warrant
Peters then gathered all the various pieces of information
collected by the officers and other detectives and relayed it
to Detective Joseph Centeno, who acted as the affiant for a
search warrant of 3234 N. Sydenham Street. (Id. at
141:17-142:12, 143:18-20, 164:19-165:1). Detective Peters did
not tell Detective Centeno that there was a report of a
burgundy vehicle fleeing the scene of the shooting, or that a
blue Impala had been seen leaving the scene of the shooting.
(Id. at 156:17-24, 161:8-19). This information
was therefore never presented to the magistrate judge who
issued the warrant.
express purpose of seeking the warrant was to search for
evidence of a homicide. (Id. at 158:24-1). However,
the warrant also listed that the police would be searching
for items related to drug offenses. Detective Peters
explained that he told Detective Centeno to include those
items specifically because they had been observed when the
detectives and officers entered 3234 N. Sydenham Street to
clear it. (Id. at 159:13-161:7).
warrant was issued on September 11, 2017, at 11:50 P.M.
Members of the Philadelphia Police Department then executed
the search warrant and seized drugs and numerous items
related to drug trafficking.
The 2018 Warrant
was charged in a Superseding Indictment for conspiracy and
drug offenses on October 17, 2018. Law enforcement had
observed him coming and going from 3234 N. Sydenham Street on
October 16, 2018, and they arrived at the property to arrest
Boyer on October 18, 2018. Officers announced their presence
and waited a reasonable amount of time. When no one came to
the door, they entered the home and took Boyer into custody.
Officers then conducted a protective sweep of the home and
observed a black duffel bag with marijuana protruding from
the top. The residence was secured until a search warrant was
obtained. Members of the Federal ...