United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the Court are two motions to suppress evidence
filed by the defendants in the instant case, Tyrone Marquise
Jones and Terry James Cox. See Jones Mot. to
Suppress, ECF No. 34; Cox Mot. to Suppress, ECF
No. 36. On November 4, 2019, the Court held a hearing on both
motions. See Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 55. The issues
have been ably briefed and argued, and they are ripe for
resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
DENIES the motions.
this case centers on a firearm discovered in the rear seat of
a parked vehicle, it actually arises out of the Huntington
Violent Crime-Drug Task Force's unrelated attempt to
serve subpoenas on two individuals identified as Chandra Ross
and Mark Damron on August 9, 2019. Id. at 3. The
group of officers from the Task Force was comprised of
Sergeant Paul Hunter, Sergeant Kerry Arthur, Corporal Greg
Moore, and Corporal Stephen Maniskas-all of the Huntington
Police Department-as well as Special Agent Sean McNees of the
Drug Enforcement Agency. Id. at 8. Unsure where Ross
and Damron were located, at around 10:00 a.m. the group
traveled to Damron's mother's home at 1843 12th
Avenue in Huntington, West Virginia. Id. at 5, 7.
Upon arrival, the officers walked to the front of the house
and knocked on the door. Id. at 7. While they
received no answer, they did observe a number of live rounds
scattered across the front porch. Id.
officers subsequently left the scene to execute a search
warrant in Marcum Terrace, approximately a five-minute drive
away from 1843 12th Avenue. Id. at 42. Near the end
of the day, the group returned to the address for a second
attempt at serving the subpoenas. Id. at 8. As they
approached the home in their unmarked police van, they
noticed a woman identified as Krishauna Brown on the front
porch. Id. They also observed a late-model white
Mercury sedan parked directly in front of the house, which
Sergeant Hunter recognized as the vehicle Brown had been
driving during a previous traffic stop. Id. at 9.
The vehicle was facing west, away from the officers and
against the flow of traffic. Id. at 9, 19. After
drawing a connection between the vehicle and Brown, Hunter
recalled that Brown's father-identified as Tony Lee-had
reported his vehicle stolen by Damron “three or four
days” beforehand. Id. at 9-10. Given that
Brown was currently on the porch of Damron's mother's
home, Hunter speculated that she was “there to try to
take out some street justice” on Damron in revenge for
the theft of her father's car. Id. at 12.
same time, the officers also observed two individuals seated
in the driver's seat and driver's-side rear seat of
the Mercury. Id. The officers waited in their
van for several minutes to observe the scene, and then
decided to approach the vehicle before going to the front of
the home to attempt to serve the subpoenas. Id.
Sergeant Hunter recalled that the officers elected to
approach the vehicle because they “wanted to let [the
occupants] know that [they] were law enforcement.”
Id. Hunter led the officers from the passenger side,
and Corporal Maniskas led the officers on the driver's
side. Id. at 30. As they approached the vehicle,
Maniskas and Hunter-followed by the other
officers-prominently displayed their badges to identify
themselves as law enforcement.Id. at 32. Hunter kept
his gun in his holster as he approached the vehicle, drawing
closer to the rear passenger window. Id. at 30.
point, the precise series of events becomes slightly less
clear. Sergeant Hunter testified that as “soon as [he]
displayed [his] badge, Tyrone Jones”-the occupant of
the rear driver's-side seat-“immediately looked at
me and started reaching off to the left.” Id.
at 13. Corporal Moore recounted a slightly different scene,
with Jones repeatedly “making motions down to the right
side, possibly concealing or obtaining an object.”
Id. at 58. Finally, Jones himself recalls talking to
his niece via a video call on his cell phone and dropping his
phone in startled surprise as the officers surrounded the
vehicle with their guns already drawn. Id. at 72. He
claims he “went to pick the phone up, ”
“thinking maybe [he] should keep [his] phone in my hand
to record the situation because . . . [of] what was going
Jones' exact movements or the actions that motivated
them, these stories are not altogether in conflict. It seems
clear that at some point while the officers were approaching
the vehicle, Jones bent forward and off to his side. This
furtive movement alarmed Sergeant Hunter, who “thought
he was reaching for a weapon.” Id. at 15.
Hunter immediately drew his service weapon, backed up, and
told Jones to show his hands. Id. at 14. The other
officers drew their weapons simultaneously, and joined Hunter
in “yelling hands, hands . . . show me your
hands.” Id. at 16. Jones was initially
nonresponsive, but “finally stopped reaching”
after bending downward “two to three different
point, Corporal Maniskas removed the occupant of the
driver's seat-identified at the scene as Terry Cox-from
the vehicle. Id. Sergeant Arthur removed Jones from
the vehicle as well, and was in the process of detaining him
when Corporal Moore noticed a firearm in the rear seat of the
vehicle and alerted the other officers to its presence.
Id. This discovery made Jones “stiffen up and
begin to fight, ” refusing to follow directions.
Id. at 16-17. Officers wrestled him to the ground,
and went on to secure the Kel-Tec PT3AT .380 pistol and the
rest of the scene. Id. at 17. They discovered a bag
of cocaine base, or “crack, ” near the site of
Jones' arrest, as well as a quantity of crystal meth in
the glove compartment. Id. at 17-18.
Jones were subsequently indicted for aiding and abetting the
possession of firearms by felons in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 2. On October 10,
2019, Jones filed his Motion to Suppress. One week later,
Defendant Cox followed with a similar motion. Both Jones and
Cox argue that they were “seized” within the
meaning of the Fourth Amendment when officers approached the
vehicle with their guns drawn, and that they lacked the
requisite reasonable suspicion to do so. The United States
filed responses to Jones' and Cox's motions on
October 17 and October 24, respectively. Resp. to
Jones Mot. to Suppress, ECF No. 36; Resp. to Cox
Mot. to Suppress, ECF No. 45. On November 4, the Court
held a hearing on both motions at which Sergeant Hunter,
Corporal Moore, and Defendant Jones testified. Hr'g
Tr., at 3. With this factual and procedural background
in mind, the Court turns to the legal considerations that
govern the disposition of the instant motions.
Constitution guarantees “[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment,
“[t]he Supreme Court has recognized three distinct
types of police citizen interactions: (1) arrests, which must
be supported by probable cause[;] . . . (2) brief
investigatory stops, which must be supported by reasonable
articulable suspicion[;] . . . and (3) brief encounters
between police and citizens, which require no objective
justification.” United States v. Weaver, 282
F.3d 302, 309 (4th Cir. 2002). Defendants' motions
implicate the second and third categories most directly,
notwithstanding their subsequent arrests.
not all personal intercourse between policemen and citizens
involves ‘seizures' of persons. Only when [an]
officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has
in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen may [a court]
conclude that a ‘seizure' has occurred.”
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19, n. 16 (1968).
Accordingly, where “a reasonable person would feel free
to disregard the police and go about his business, the
encounter is consensual and no reasonable suspicion is
required.” Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429,
434 (1991) (citing California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S.
621, 628 (1991)) (internal citation and quotations omitted).
Of course, it follows that a seizure has occurred
where a reasonable person would not feel free to
disregard the police. Id. This test is an objective
one, asking whether “in view of all of the
circumstances surrounding [an] incident, a reasonable person
would have believed that he was not free to leave.”
United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554
Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable
seizures are triggered where an encounter is no longer
consensual. I.N.S. v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210, 215
(1984). Such investigative Terry stops require
courts to determine whether a seizure is supported by an
officer's reasonable, articulable suspicion that an
individual is engaging in criminal activity. United
States v. Jones, 678 F.3d 293, 299 (4th Cir.
2012). This suspicion “must be based on
specific, objective facts.” Brown v. Texas,
443 U.S. 47, 51 (1979). In reviewing the constitutionality of
a Terry stop, courts are required to consider the
“totality of the circumstances of each case to see
whether the detaining officer has a particularized and
objective basis for supporting legal wrongdoing.”
United States v. Mayo, 361 F.3d 802, 805 (4th Cir.
2004). This determination must “give due weight to
common sense judgments reached by officers in light of their
experience and training.” United States v.
Perkins, 363 F.3d 317, 321 (4th Cir. 2004). Where an
officer has reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory
stop, he is “authorized to take such steps as [are]
reasonably necessary to protect [his] personal safety and to
maintain the status quo.” United States v.