United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
M. BODENHAUSEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant Hakeem Valentine's Motion
to Suppress Evidence. (ECF No. 23) The government opposes
Valentine's motion. (ECF No. 24) For the reasons outlined
below, the undersigned recommends that the Court deny
10, 2018, the Grand Jury charged Valentine with one count of
being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 922(g). The charges flow from an April 17,
2018, traffic stop during which officers with the St. Louis
Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) seized three handguns
from a car in which Valentine was a passenger. In his motion
to suppress, Valentine suggests that the police lacked lawful
authority to stop the car, and even if lawful, the police
unlawfully extended the duration of the stop rendering any
search of the car unconstitutional. The government contends
that the police had probable cause to stop the car for a
traffic violation and that reasonable suspicion justified
extending the stop to search the car for weapons.
January 3, 2019, the Court held an evidentiary hearing.
Valentine was present and represented by Assistant Federal
Public Defenders Brocca Morrison and Kayla Williams. The
government was represented by Assistant United States
Attorney Thomas Mehan. Also present were the two SLMPD
Officers who conducted the traffic stop in question-Officers
Michael Joyner and Benjamin Lacy. The government presented
the testimony of Officer Joyner and Valentine presented the
testimony of Officer Lacy. Ms. Morrison cross-examined
Officer Joyner extensively. Valentine submitted one
exhibit-Defendant's Exhibit A-a DVD that included copies
of the relevant radio transmissions and dashboard camera
video (hereinafter “dash cam”) from the
officers' patrol car. At the conclusion of the hearing,
Valentine requested leave to submit a post-hearing memorandum
after receiving a transcript of the evidentiary hearing. Both
parties have filed their respective post-hearing memoranda.
(ECF Nos. 32, 34, 37)
on the testimony and evidence adduced at the evidentiary
hearing, having had the opportunity to observe the demeanor
and evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, having
carefully reviewed Defendant's Exhibit A, and having
fully considered the parties' arguments and written
submissions, the undersigned makes the following findings of
fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation.
Joyner is an SLMPD patrol officer. At the time of the
evidentiary hearing, he had been an officer for six years.
Officer Joyner was on duty on the evening of April 17, 2018,
and was patrolling the First District in a marked patrol car
with Officer Lacy.
Joyner explained that the officers' patrol car was
equipped with a dash cam video recording system. He generally
described his understanding of what events trigger a
recording. Although the dash cam system is always operating,
it does not preserve or save recordings until some triggering
event causes the recording to be preserved. Officer
Joyner's testimony suggested that certain events, such as
activating the flashing lights, would trigger the dash cam to
capture and preserve records, including a portion of time
before the trigger event. The dash cam recording submitted in
this case as Defendant's Exhibit A is consistent with
Officer Joyner's general description.
around 8 p.m. on April 17th, in the area of the 3200 block of
Keokuk, Officers Joyner and Lacy observed a Chevrolet Impala
stopped at the curb. A person on foot was talking to someone
in the Impala. Officer Joyner explained that as the patrol
car passed the Impala, the person on foot took off south
through a gangway. Officer Joyner clarified that the person
did not run, but rather walked away with “a
purpose.” The officers drove within feet of the Impala
and noticed that it had an expired temporary license tag. The
officers elected not to stop the Impala for the tag violation
at that time and drove to an alley to look for the person on
officers drove to the alley but did not find the person on
foot. As the officers turned down the alley, however, a
vehicle entered the alley from the opposite direction. As the
vehicles got closer, the officers realized that the other
vehicle was the Impala they had just seen. Although the dash
cam video in Officer Joyner's patrol car did not capture
the initial encounter with the Impala on Keokuk, it captured
the entire sequence of events in the alley.
seeing the Impala in the alley, the officers
“spotlighted” it and activated their emergency
lights to conduct a traffic stop of the vehicle. Officer
Joyner testified that, before the Impala stopped, it backed
up and then started to try to go around the officers'
vehicle. The Impala had four occupants-two in the front and
two in the back. Valentine was seated in the rear seat on the
Joyner exited the patrol car and approached the driver's
side of the Impala. Officer Joyner testified that he could
see the driver of the Impala moving his arm and it looked to
Officer Joyner as if he was trying to conceal something on
the floorboard. Officer Joyner explained that he assumed
anything someone might try to conceal could be dangerous, so
he shouted a command to show hands. Officer Joyner also
abruptly stopped his approach to the Impala and raised his
left hand. Although not immediately, all four occupants
obeyed the command to raise their hands. Officer Joyner then
resumed his approach and removed the driver from the vehicle,
secured him, and moved him to the rear of the vehicle.
Officer Joyner testified that, in the process of confronting
the driver and removing him from the Impala, he observed a
handgun on the floorboard.
Officer Joyner was dealing with the driver, Officer Lacy
approached the Impala from the passenger side. The passenger
side of the vehicle was positioned somewhat snuggly against a
fence or wall in the alley, but there was room for a door to
open and for a passenger to get out of the Impala. Officer
Lacy testified that it appeared to him as though the person
in the back seat on the passenger side (later identified as
Valentine) was trying to exit the car. Officer Joyner
testified that he heard Officer Lacy shouting at someone to
keep the door closed. The dash cam video shows Officer Lacy
proceed directly to the passenger side rear door and, after a
few moments, remove Valentine and secure him at the rear of
the vehicle with the driver.
Valentine was removed from the Impala, the other back seat
passenger was removed and secured at the back of the vehicle.
The final passenger removed was the front seat passenger. All
four passengers were kept at the rear of the Impala and one
officer remained ...