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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

December 8, 2016




         This matter was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Pending before the undersigned is Defendant Julius Lamon Jones' Motion to Suppress Evidence and Statements. (Doc. 27.) Jones argues that an officer did not have reasonable suspicion to justify a Terry stop of the Cadillac Escalade in which he was a passenger based on an anonymous 911 tip. Jones requests the suppression of “all items seized from [his] Cadillac Escalade, all testimony regarding [his] seizure and arrest from the Escalade, and any statements [he] allegedly made at the scene of his arrest.” Id. at 4. The Government filed a Brief in opposition to Jones' claims. (Doc. 32.) After an evidentiary hearing (Doc. 37), both parties submitted memoranda. (Docs. 45, 47.)

         In consideration of the pleadings identified above, as well as all exhibits admitted into evidence, the undersigned recommends that the following findings of fact and conclusions of law be adopted and that Jones' Motion to Suppress be denied.

         I. Findings of Fact

         The investigation of this case began with a grocery store robbery being reported to police. One person was shot during the robbery. Three suspects fled in a car from the grocery store. A high speed chase from Kennett, Missouri to Blytheville, Arkansas followed. Within just over an hour, the chase resulted in the arrests of two of three suspects who were in the car. One of the suspects was arrested just minutes after the car crashed in a field in Blytheville. Another suspect was arrested in Osceola, Arkansas after a 911 caller reported the suspect had gotten into a Cadillac Escalade and departed the area.

         The apprehension of the suspects required communication and cooperation between multiple law enforcement agencies, including: the Kennett Police Department in Missouri; the Missouri State Highway Patrol; the Mississippi County, Arkansas Sheriff's Department; the Arkansas State Police; and the Osceola, Arkansas Police Department.

         On July 1, 2015, around 10:00 p.m., Sgt. Phillip Caldwell of the Kennett Police Department received a dispatch regarding an armed robbery at Curt's Grocery. One person was shot during the robbery and the suspects left in a silver Toyota passenger car. Sgt. Caldwell responded to the call by activating his lights and siren, and traveling toward Curt's Grocery. While en route, Sgt. Caldwell passed a silver Toyota in oncoming traffic. He turned around to follow the Toyota and a high speed chase ensued. Although Sgt. Caldwell chased the suspect vehicle at speeds exceeding one hundred miles per hour, the Toyota would not stop.

         When Sgt. Caldwell was within eight car lengths of the Toyota, he heard noises and saw muzzle flashes coming from the driver's side of the vehicle. He realized the flashes were gun shots. Sgt. Caldwell backed off slightly from the Toyota, but followed it all the way to Blytheville, Arkansas where a Mississippi County Deputy, Dale Stracener, took the pursuit over at approximately 10:18 p.m.

         Initially, roughly one mile inside the Arkansas state line, Deputy Stracener had his patrol unit parked so that it was blocking the highway with the emergency lights on. As the Toyota approached Stracener's location, the Toyota slowed to approximately sixty or seventy miles per hour and passed the patrol car by driving on the grass shoulder of the highway. After passing the parked patrol unit, additional shots were fired from the Toyota toward the patrol car. Deputy Stracener began to pursue the Toyota, driving at speeds in excess of one hundred miles per hour.

         Law enforcement officers followed the Toyota into Yarbrough, Arkansas during which time additional shots were fired by the front passenger occupant of the Toyota. Sgt. Caldwell continued behind the Arkansas officer until the pursuit terminated in Blytheville, Arkansas. The Toyota was driven into a grassy field and crashed nose first in a ditch approximately 250 feet off the roadway.

         Deputy Stracener observed three suspects bail out of the Toyota--the driver, who was wearing red, out of the driver's side; and two passengers out of the passenger side. One passenger was wearing gray sweat pants and the other passenger was wearing a white sleeveless t-shirt, or what was also referred to as a “wife beater.” The three suspects were African-American men. They ran to the northeast, away from the wrecked Toyota. Within a few minutes, Deputy Stracener along with Trooper Bennett of the Arkansas State Police found the driver lying down in some nearby bushes.

         Deputy Stracener recalled that while working with Trooper Bennett to find the suspects, he overheard a radio transmission regarding a black male wearing a white tank top and dark pants getting into a mustard-colored Cadillac Escalade with an Arkansas license plate. Deputy Stracener testified that the radio traffic as he recalled it was “a black male wearing the same description as I had said earlier, white tank top, dark pants, on the scene getting into a Cadillac Escalade.” (Suppression Hearing Transcript, Doc. 37 at 25, hereinafter “Tr. ___”.) Deputy Stracener believed the information had come from a 911 caller, [1] however, he could not verify the source of the information other than to say it was relayed by the Mississippi County Sheriff Office's Dispatcher.

         Around 10:30 p.m., Osceola Police Department (OPD) Officer Chris Ellis was on patrol and heard radio traffic regarding one of the suspects from the Missouri robbery. Osceola is located twenty-five to thirty miles from the Missouri/Arkansas state line. The OPD Dispatcher[2] reported that the Mississippi County Sheriff's Office advised they received a 911 call that an occupant of a vehicle from the officer involved shooting “had gotten into a mustard yellow Cadillac Escalade” (Tr. 29), with a specific Arkansas license plate number (LPN). (Tr. 29-31, 41-43.)

         At approximately 10:43 p.m., one of the recorded Arkansas State Police dispatches reveals that the following information was called out by the Operator:

I was going to give you a little traffic. I was listening to Mississippi County, they advised that a green Cadillac Escalade, Arkansas LPN 685 Sam Nora Nora, 685 Sam Nora Nora, possibly picked up one of the suspects; wearing a wife, uh, a wife beater shirt and dark jeans, uh, black male; unknown direction of travel.

(Gov't. Ex. 3 at 21:10 thru 21:35.[3]) Shortly thereafter, the Operator called out to another officer, “You don't see a green Cadillac Escalade anywhere, do you?” Id. at 22:09. The officer answered, “Negative, I've been looking.” Id.

         At 10:56 p.m., Officer Ellis and Patrolman Newel were waiting at the north end of the Osceola city limits to watch for a mustard yellow Cadillac Escalade and the Cadillac came into view. Officer Ellis followed the Cadillac through town and stopped it in the parking lot of an old gas station. The driver was Defendant Julius Jones' wife, Reshawn Jones. Jones was in the front passenger seat wearing a white sleeveless t-shirt that had blood on it and black sweat pants. The back side of Jones' sweatpants and his shoes had fresh mud on them.

         Around 11:00 p.m., an Arkansas Trooper (identified as “C2” in the radio log) reported “Update just received on the, uh, a green Escalade, that's. . .from around this area. . .has just been located in Osceola.” Id. at 26:00. The Arkansas State Police “Radio Transmission Log” entry reflected “. . .The mustard green Escalade [had] ...

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