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United States v. Reddix

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

November 21, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DEREK REDDIX, Defendant.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          Joy Flowers Conti, Senior United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Defendant Derek Reddix (“Reddix”) filed a motion (ECF No. 51) seeking to: (1) suppress evidence obtained from a contact with law enforcement officers on February 23, 2018; (2) suppress his statements that he dropped a cell phone during his flight; and (3) obtain a “Franks hearing” regarding a subsequent affidavit in support of a search warrant for two cell phones. The government filed an omnibus response in opposition to the motion (ECF No. 53). On June 19, 2019, the court held an evidentiary hearing. (Transcript, ECF No. 55). The parties were permitted to file simultaneous proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. After several requests for extensions of time by counsel for Reddix, the parties filed their post-hearing submissions on October 11, 2018. (ECF Nos. 64, 65). The government filed its response in opposition to the request for a Franks hearing on November 8, 2019. The motion is ripe for disposition.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         Reddix is charged in a one-count indictment at Criminal No. 18-63 with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon on February 23, 2018, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Reddix contends that the initial warrantless stop on February 23, 2018 was without reasonable suspicion or probable cause because officers could not have seen a gun from where they were located and he was “seized” when he stopped at the officers' command, before running away. Reddix contends that the gun and cell phones recovered after he fled, any statements made by him, and the subsequent search warrant for the contents of the cell phones should be suppressed as fruits of the illegal seizure.

         Findings of Fact

         1. Pittsburgh Police Lieutenant Arthur Baker (“Lt. Baker”) and Detective (now Sergeant) Harrison Maddox (“Det. Maddox”) testified at the hearing. Lt. Baker and Det. Maddox offered credible testimony.

         2. The defense called investigator Kevin Parente (“Parente”) as a witness. Parente offered credible testimony.

         3. On February 23, 2018, Lt. Baker, Sergeant Andrew Baker (“Sgt. Baker”) and Det. Maddox were patrolling the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a marked police car as part of a violent crime response effort in Zone 5 prompted by 26 shootings in the prior four months. Tr. 15, 17.

         4. The targeted enforcement effort sought to identify the individuals believed to be causing the violence. As part of the violence prevention initiative, Det. Maddox prepared an intel packet containing the photographs and criminal histories of those individuals. Tr. at 81; Govt. Ex. 10.

         5. Det. Maddox included Reddix in the intel packet because homicide detectives identified Reddix as a possible witness or actor in a homicide in October 2017. Tr. at 26, 82. Reddix's criminal history showed that he was on release for two pending state gun charges. Tr. at 81-82.

         6. Lt. Baker explained that prior to doing a violent crime response operation, the officers have a daily briefing at which they go over pictures, locations and a plan of action. Tr. 27.

         7. On February 23, 2018, the officers were not specifically looking for Reddix. Tr. 74.

         8. At approximately 4:25 p.m. on February 23, 2018, Lt. Baker, Sgt. Baker and Det. Maddox were in a marked police car driving on the 7500 block of Formosa Way in Homewood. Lt. Baker was driving; Sgt. Baker was in the front passenger seat; and Det. Maddox was in the back seat behind the driver. Tr. 78.

         9. Lt. Baker and Sgt. Baker were in full uniform. Det. Maddox was wearing khakis and a shirt and displayed a police badge around his neck. Tr. 62.

         10. The weather was cloudy, but visibility was clear. Tr. 22, 62. It had rained earlier that day, but it was not raining at the time of the incident. Tr. 54.

         11. As he drove on Formosa Way, Lt. Kelly looked between buildings and observed an individual in a courtyard area, at the rear of houses whose fronts were on a parallel road, 7586 and 7588 Kelly Street. Tr. 23.

         12. The house at 7588 Kelly Street was longer and extended further into the rear courtyard area than the house at 7586 Kelly Street. The individual was not in the narrow alley between the houses. Instead, he was in the rear courtyard area behind 7586 Kelly Street and beside 7588 Kelly Street. Tr. 31.

         13. Lt. Baker estimated that the distance from him to the individual was 60 feet. Det. Maddox, who also saw the individual, estimated the distance at approximately 50 or 60 feet. Parente paced the distance and estimated it at 70 feet. Parente later measured the distance from Formosa Way to the back of the house at 7586 Kelly Street at 100 feet. Tr. 48, 83, 113, 137-39, 142.

         14. The court finds that the variations between the distances estimated by the officers and the distance measured by Parente does not lessen the credibility of the officers' testimony. Even if Reddix was 100 feet away, the officers could have made the observations about Reddix's behavior to which they testified.

         15. Lt. Baker observed the individual manipulating an object in his waistband with his hand. Lt. Baker could not see the object, but based on his training and experience he believed it was a firearm. He pulled the car to the curb. Tr. 23-24. Det. Maddox did not see a firearm, but also believed the individual was adjusting a firearm in front of his waist. Tr. 132.

         16. According to Lt. Baker, the individual looked up and saw the police car, froze and gave a panic-stricken look. While he referred to a panic-stricken look, which he would not likely have seen at that distance, Lt. Baker clarified that the individual stopped what he was doing and looked at him. Tr. 24.

         17. Lt. Baker explained that based upon his experience, he was “pretty sure” the individual had a firearm based on his actions and reaction to the police presence. The individual manipulated an object in his waistband, looked over and saw the police, stopped moving and totally froze, and stared at them. Tr. 57-58. Lt. Baker testified that his suspicion was not based on the individual's facial expression. Tr. 59.

         18. According to Det. Maddox, when the individual made eye contact with Lt. Baker, he totally changed his body posture and behavior. Tr. 102.

         19. Lt. Baker told the other officers: “get out of the car; the guy's got a gun; he's going to run.” Tr. 24-25.

         20. At the time, Lt. Baker did not know who the individual was. Tr. 25. No. other people were in sight. Tr. 64.

         21. Det. Maddox observed the individual and immediately thought it might be Reddix, on whom he had done a workup. The facial characteristics were similar, but his appearance was drastically changed because Reddix used to have very long dreadlocks. Tr. 80. The individual's facial hair differed as well. Tr. 105. Det. Maddox was not 100% certain, but knew the individual looked similar to Reddix. Tr. 106. Once Det. Maddox saw him, he thought it was Reddix. Tr. 132.

         22. Sgt. Baker and Det. Maddox quickly got out of the car. Both were armed. Tr. 62. The individual took a step to the left, took another step, and ...


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