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United States v. Gilbert-Brown

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 11, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANTHONY GILBERT-BROWN and VINCENT DESHIELDS, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          KANE JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Defendants Anthony Gilbert-Brown and Vincent Deshields (“Defendants”)' motion to suppress evidence pursuant to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Doc. No. 40.) For the reasons explained herein, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background[1]

         On the night of February 19, 2018, Officer Bradley Engle (“Officer Engle”), a patrol officer with the City of York Police Department, was traveling east on Jefferson Avenue in York, Pennsylvania when he observed a red Mazda that matched the description of a vehicle that had been previously reported as stolen traveling in the opposite direction on Jefferson Avenue. (Doc. No. 64 at 3:20-24, 5:4-8.) Officer Engle then turned his patrol vehicle around and began pursuing the vehicle. (Id. at 5:7-9.) As Officer Engle began to follow the Mazda, the occupants exited the vehicle while it was still in motion and fled the area on foot. (Id. at 6:13-16.) The vehicle continued to roll until it struck a building and came to rest near the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Smith Street. (Id. at 5:10-13, 6:16-18.) One of the occupants of the Mazda ran down Smith Street, a one-way street, and Officer Engle drove his patrol vehicle to “approximately mid-block” on Smith Street, exited his patrol vehicle, and briefly pursued the individual on foot. (Id. at 7:19-25, 8:1.) He was unable to arrest any of the occupants of the Mazda. (Id. at 7:22-23.)

         Officer Engle testified that after he lost sight of the occupants, he sought to return to the area where the Mazda had been abandoned near the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Smith Street in order to establish a crime scene because, in his view, fleeing individuals often “dump guns [and] drugs.” (Id. at 8:23-25, 9:1-4.) Officer Engle further stated that he chose to reverse his patrol car instead of turning it around because Smith Street is a very narrow one-way street, and that while he reversed back toward the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Smith Street, his patrol vehicle's emergency lights were activated. (Id. at 8:21-23.)

         Prior to reaching the intersection of Smith Street and Jefferson Avenue, Officer Engle observed a white vehicle turn onto Smith Street, blocking his way as he sought to reverse toward Jefferson Avenue. (Id. at 9:10-13, 16-17.) Officer Engle “chirped” his patrol vehicle's siren to alert the white vehicle to back up so that he could continue traveling in reverse toward the intersection where the Mazda had come to rest and so that he could establish a crime scene. (Id. at 9:13-15.) The white vehicle reversed onto Jefferson Avenue, giving Officer Engle the necessary space to put his patrol vehicle in the middle of the intersection. (Id. at 9:16-19.) According to Officer Engle, at that point his patrol vehicle was positioned in such a way that a vehicle seeking to pass through the intersection of Smith Street and Jefferson Avenue would have to “attempt to go up on the curb or get very, very close to [Officer Engle's] patrol vehicle.” (Id. at 10:3-6.) Once the white vehicle came to a stop on Jefferson Avenue, Officer Engle exited his patrol vehicle and used a handheld flashlight to motion to the white vehicle to turn around because, given the positioning of his patrol vehicle, there was “no way to get through” on Jefferson Avenue. (Id. at 11:10-17.) Officer Engle also gave verbal commands to the occupants of the white vehicle to turn around. (Id. at 11:18.) While another vehicle did successfully turn around and travel the opposite direction on Jefferson Avenue, the white vehicle did not turn around and continued to “slowly drive and attempt to get around, squeeze in between [Officer Engle's] patrol vehicle and the wrecked Mazda.” (Id. at 11:19-25.)

         As the driver of the white vehicle attempted to go around his patrol vehicle, Officer Engle approached the white vehicle and gave additional commands to the driver of the white vehicle, Defendant Gilbert-Brown, to turn around. (Id. at 13:15-20, 16:22-23.) Officer Engle testified that he gave Defendant Gilbert-Brown verbal commands and accompanying hand gestures to turn around “approximately five to six times.” (Id. at 14:9-13.) Despite this directive, Defendant Gilbert-Brown continued to attempt to get around Officer Engle's patrol vehicle. (Id. at 14:18, 90:1-6.) Officer Engle testified that at that time, he observed that Defendant Gilbert-Brown had bloodshot eyes that had a “glossy tint to them” and had a “thousand-yard stare.” (Id. at 13:20-24, 18:20-22.) As Defendant Gilbert-Brown came close to entering the crime scene in the white vehicle, Officer Engle gave approximately two to three verbal commands to Defendant Gilbert-Brown to “stop the vehicle and get out and turn the vehicle off.” (Id. at 14:18-23.) Officer Engle testified that he gave these commands loudly because he noticed that the driver's side window was rolled up. (Id. at 14:23-25.) According to Officer Engle, because Defendant Gilbert-Brown had ignored multiple commands, was crossing into a crime scene, had a “thousand-yard stare, ” and appeared to be involved with the occupants of the Mazda, he decided to detain Defendant Gilbert-Brown to conduct an investigatory stop. (Id. at 19:14-25, 20:2-5.)

         Once Officer Engle gave the commands to “stop the vehicle and get out and turn the vehicle off, ” however, Defendant Gilbert-Brown, still in the white vehicle, began to travel in reverse away from Officer Engle before abruptly putting the white vehicle in drive again and traveling directly toward Officer Engle. (Id. at 20:7-10.) The bumper and hood of the white vehicle made contact with Officer Engle on his left leg, near his knee and shin area. (Id. at 20:10-18.) Upon being struck by the white vehicle on his left leg, Officer Engle placed his hand on the hood to try to get away from the white vehicle. (Id. at 20:20-22.) Defendant Gilbert-Brown continued to travel forward into Officer Engle, pushing him, at which time Officer Engle, fearing “serious bodily injury, ” drew his service weapon and fired four to five rounds into the windshield. (Id. at 20:24-25, 21:1-4.)

         After Officer Engle fired shots into the windshield of the vehicle, Defendant Gilbert-Brown reversed at a high rate of speed and struck Officer Engle's patrol vehicle. (Id. at 21:11-14.) Officer Engle testified that he gave more commands to “stop the vehicle and get out, ” with which Defendant Gilbert-Brown did not comply. (Id. at 21:14-17.) After hitting the police vehicle while traveling in reverse, Defendant Gilbert-Brown traveled forward again toward Officer Engle at a “high rate of speed” and then stopped. (Id. at 21:15-17.) Officer Engle continued to give commands to “stop the vehicle” and “put your hands up” throughout this encounter. (Id. at 21:17-21.) Officer Engle then manually activated his body camera because the camera had not been activated when his patrol car's emergency lights had been turned on.[2] (Id. at 23:1-2.) After the white vehicle came to a complete stop, Officer Engle continued to give verbal commands for the occupants of the white vehicle to “keep your hands up” because the passenger in the white vehicle was “bending over and reaching towards the floorboard of the vehicle, ” taking his hands out of view. (Id. at 23:25, 24:1-5.) Officer Paul Thorne of the York City Police Department (“Officer Thorne”) arrived and assisted Officer Engle with the arrest of Defendants. (Doc. No. 40-1 at 7.) Once in custody, both Defendants were searched incident to arrest. (Id.) Recovered from Defendant Gilbert-Brown were: “eleven clear plastic baggies; 23 U.S. twenty-dollar bills totaling $460; nine U.S. ten-dollar bills totaling $90; one U.S. five-dollar bill totaling $5; and five U.S. one-dollar bills totaling $5.” (Doc. No. 64 at 137:23-25, 138:1.) Defendant DeShields was found to possess: “four U.S. twenty-dollar bills, totaling $80; one ziplock bag with marijuana; one Bluntville Cigarillo; one glassine knotted bag containing white chalky substance; one Samsung flip phone; one white lighter; and one key ring with five keys.” (Id. at 138:5-9.)

         In York County, Pennsylvania State Police policy provides that Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Investigations Division (“CID”) “take[s] over” the investigation when there is an officer-involved shooting. (Id. at 97:16-19, 139:4-14.) Trooper Jason Groff (“Trooper Groff”), a trooper with CID, received a call and was dispatched to the scene after the incident occurred. (Id. at 95:1-2.) Upon Trooper Groff's arrival, he met with Officer Thorne and took possession of evidence obtained by the York City Police Department during the arrest of Defendants. (Id. at 95:18-23.) Trooper Groff also interviewed both Defendants. (Id. at 96:11-24, 97:1-9.) During his interview with Trooper Groff, Defendant Gilbert-Brown indicated that he had been operating the white vehicle despite having a suspended driver's license. (Id. at 100:20-23.) Trooper Groff testified that Defendant Gilbert-Brown stated during this interview that Officer Engle had motioned for Defendant Gilbert-Brown to go around his patrol vehicle “by pointing, ” but that no verbal directions had been given to him. (Id. at 121:19-25, 122:1-10.)

         During a conversation between Trooper Groff and Officer Thorne that took place at approximately 11:50 P.M. that night, Officer Thorne stated that the white vehicle had been searched incident to the arrest of Defendants, and items of contraband located. (Id. at 130:1-8.) Officer Thorne further told Trooper Groff that “[h]e observed a Glock Model 23” with serial number VGR851 in plain view, “sitting in the center console of the cup holder.” (Id. at 130:12-17, 133:4-8.) Also recovered from inside the white vehicle were: “one magazine with bullets; one lone bullet that was removed from the firing chamber of the Glock [Model 23] . . . one black digital scale; two large knotted glassine bags with white chalky substance; one small knotted glassine bag with white chalky substance; one small knotted bag with marijuana; one white iPhone with a certain serial number ending in 3385; one ripped vacuum-sealed bag.” (Id. at 135:19-25, 136:1-3.)

         Trooper Groff testified that the white vehicle was subsequently towed to a Pennsylvania State Police lot because it was blocking a lane of traffic and both occupants of the vehicle had been arrested and could not drive it. (Id. at 147:3-9.) Further, according to Trooper Groff, the white vehicle was considered evidence because it had bullet holes in it “and it was used as a weapon against an officer.” (Id. at 147:9-13.) Trooper Groff also testified that prior to towing the vehicle, Pennsylvania State Police policy provides that the vehicle would be subject to an inventory search for “valuables and other items.” (Id. at 136:21-21, 137:1-3.) Trooper David Howanitz (“Trooper Howanitz”) of the Pennsylvania State Police Forensic Services Unit processed the crime scene and took photographs of the white vehicle. (Id. at 136:4-19.) While Trooper Howanitz was processing the scene, he located “one black Hi-Point Model C9, 9- millimeter handgun, with serial number P1481563 . . . one 9-millimeter magazine from that Hi-Point handgun . . . eight NFCR 9-millimeter ammunition . . . inside the above-listed magazine . . . four Federal shell casings . . . seven paint chips . . . the 2016 white Chevrolet Cruze with [Pennsylvania] [r]egistration GFV 0643 . . . and the ignition key for the Chevrolet Cruze.” (Id. at 137:9-20.)

         After the car was towed to a Pennsylvania State Police lot, Trooper Groff obtained a search warrant for the white vehicle, which was executed on February 21, 2018. (Id. at 138:10-12; 20-21.) That search yielded: “one bullet; one knotted glassine bag containing suspected crack cocaine; one pink Apple iPhone with ending Serial Number 944A; one black Go Smart flip phone with ending Serial Number 7195; one marijuana blunt; one PennDOT ...


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