United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Daniel Derek
Brown's motion to suppress evidence (Dkt. No. 44) and the
Government's response (Dkt. No. 45). Having thoroughly
considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record,
and the evidentiary hearing held on April 4, 2017, the Court
hereby DENIES the motion for the reasons explained herein.
January 11, 2016, at approximately 7:20 p.m., the Seattle
Police Department (SPD) received a 911 call from Sandra
Katowitz. (Dkt. No. 44 at 2; Dkt. No. 45 at 1.) Ms. Katowitz
is a staff member at the YWCA in downtown Seattle, and was
calling to report that an unidentified resident walked in the
door and stated, “That guy has a gun.” (Dkt. No.
44 at 2.) The unidentified resident refused to speak with the
911 operator or the police, and refused to give her name. The
resident relayed the physical description of the person she
claimed had the gun to Ms. Katowitz: a black male with
dreadlocks; 20 to 30 years old; wearing a camouflage jacket
and red shoes. (Id.; Dkt. No. 45 at 2.) The 911
operator asked, “And where did he put the gun? Did you
see?” (Dkt. No. 44 at 2.) Ms. Katowitz responded,
“I-no.” (Dkt. No. 44-1 at 5.) Then the 911
operator asked, “What was he doing with the gun?
Handling it? Holding it? Pointing? What?” (Id.
at 6.) Ms. Katowitz responded, “Uh, she just came in
and said he has a gun.” (Id.)
Officers Breckon and Beecroft responded to the YWCA and spoke
with Ms. Katowitz, but not with the anonymous resident. (Dkt.
No. 45 at 2; Dkt. No. 44 at 2.) They updated dispatch that
“we have no victim of any crime.” (Dkt. No. 44 at
2.) Meanwhile, Deputy Mikulcik and Deputy Litsjo, from the
King County Sheriff's Office Metro Transit Unit, were
patrolling downtown and heard the 911 call. (Dkt. No. 45 at
2.) Deputy Mikulcik responded and saw a male matching the
description,  who turned out to be Defendant.
(Id.) Deputy Mikulcik made a U-turn and began
following Defendant. (Id.) Deputy Mikulcik activated
his emergency lights and attempted to contact Defendant.
(Id. at 3.) At this point, Defendant began to run.
(Id.; Dkt. No. 44 at 3.) The deputies chased
Defendant with their respective patrol cars, cut him off, and
then exited their vehicles and ordered Defendant to the
ground at gunpoint. (Dkt. No. 44 at 3; Dkt. No. 45 at 3.)
point SPD Officers Breckon and Beecroft arrived on the scene.
(Dkt. No. 45 at 3.) The deputies handcuffed Defendant and
performed a protective weapons sweep, locating a
semiautomatic handgun in his waistband. (Id.; Dkt.
No. 44 at 4.) Deputy Litsjo searched Defendant's jacket
and found $162.00 and approximately 8.1 grams of cocaine.
(Dkt. No. 44 at 4.) Another deputy searched Defendant's
backpack and recovered ammunition, a knife, and an expandable
baton. (Dkt. No 44 at 4; Dkt. No. 45 at 4.)
January 20, 2016, King County Deputy Smith conducted a phone
interview of Ms.Katowitz, who provided the name of the YWCA
resident who initially reported that there was a man outside
with a gun. (Dkt. No. 45 at 4.)
March 2, 2016, Defendant was indicted on the following
charges: Felon in Possession of a Firearm, Possession of
Cocaine Base with Intent to Distribute, and Possession of a
Firearm in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking. (Dkt. No. 13.)
Defendant now brings this motion to suppress, arguing that
the items seized by law enforcement were the fruit of an
illegal stop because the investigatory detention was not
supported by a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity
was afoot. (Dkt. No. 44 at 5.)
officer may, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, conduct a
brief, investigatory stop when the officer has a reasonable,
articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.”
Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 120 (2000)
(citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968)).
Reasonable suspicion must exist at the time the officer
initiates a Terry stop. See Florida v.
J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 271 (2000); United States v.
Fouche, 776 F.2d 1398, 1402 (9th Cir. 1985). In the
reasonable suspicion context, a “totality of the
circumstances” approach is relevant. Alabama v.
White, 496 U.S. 325, 328-29 (1990) (quoting Illinois
v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983)). Ultimately, a
“reasonable suspicion must be based on common sense
judgments and inferences about human behavior.”
Wardlow, 528 U.S. at 125. Here, White,
J.L., and Wardlow inform this Court's
totality of the circumstances approach in determining whether
reasonable suspicion existed at the time the deputies stopped
White, the police received an anonymous tip that a
woman in possession of cocaine would leave an apartment
building at a specific time, get into a particular car, and
drive to a named hotel. 496 U.S. at 327. Standing alone, the
anonymous tip did not justify a Terry stop.
Id. at 329. However, police observations verified
that the anonymous tipster accurately predicted the
woman's movements. Id. Although it was a
“close call, ” the corroboration by independent
police work gave the tip moderate indicia of reliability such
that by the time officers pulled the defendant over, they had
a reasonable suspicion that crime was afoot. Id. at
contrast, the police in J.L. received an anonymous
call reporting that “a young black male standing at a
particular bus stop and wearing a plaid shirt was carrying a
gun.” 529 U.S. at 268. Other than the tip, the officers
had no reason to suspect the young man of illegal conduct.
Id. The Supreme Court held that an accurate
description of what a person was wearing and where he was
standing was reliable only in the sense of identifying the
individual; it provided no predictive information through
which to test the informant's knowledge or credibility.
Id. at 271- 72. Therefore, the officers had no
reasonable suspicion to justify a Terry stop and
frisk of J.L. Id. at 271. That he was indeed
carrying a gun was irrelevant to whether the police had a
reasonable basis when they stopped him. Id.
addressed Terry stops in the context of unprovoked
flight from police officers. In Wardlow, officers
were patrolling a high crime area in order to investigate
drug transactions. 528 U.S. at 121. The officers observed the
defendant, holding an opaque bag, look in the direction of
the officers and flee. Id. at 121-22. The officers
gave chase, stopped the defendant, and performed a
Terry frisk, revealing a gun. Id. at 122.
Although the Supreme Court declined to create a bright line
rule that unprovoked flight establishes reasonable suspicion,
it nonetheless stated that “[h]eadlong flight-wherever
it occurs-is the consummate act of evasion: It is not
necessarily indicative of wrong doing, but it is ...