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United States v. Davis

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 30, 2013

TYRONE K. DAVIS, Defendant.



On September 23, 2012, the Grand Jury for the District of Delaware returned a one-count Indictment charging the defendant, Tyrone K. Davis ("Davis"), with possession and transportation of a firearm by a prohibited person in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 992(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Presently before the court is Davis' Motion to Suppress Evidence. (D.I. 14.) The court held an evidentiary hearing in connection with this Motion (D.I. 16) and subsequently directed the parties to file proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. After having considered the testimony elicited during the hearing and the arguments presented in the parties' submissions on the issues, the court will deny Davis' motion.


At the evidentiary hearing, the United States called two witnesses: William Browne ("Captain Browne"), Captain of Detectives for the Wilmington Police Department ("WPD") and leader of the WPD's Crisis Management and Tactical Team ("SWAT Team"); and Kimberly Pfaff ("Detective Pfaff), a criminal investigator for the WPD. See Transcript of Evidentiary Hearing ("Tr.") (D.I. 16) at 5:4-15; id. at 31:3-13. After listening to the testimony of the witnesses, the court concludes that Capital Browne and Detective Pfaff s account of the facts is credible. The following represents the court's essential findings of fact as required by Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

On August 16, 2012, Detective Pfaff applied for and obtained a warrant for the body of Davis ("arrest warrant") at 512 N. Monroe Street, Wilmington, Delaware, based upon a reasonable belief that Davis would be located therein.[1] (D.I. 21 at 2 (citing Tr. at 32:3-7).) Detective Pfaff applied for the arrest warrant after receiving a call regarding a domestic violence complaint from Davis' ex-girlfriend. (Id. (citing Tr. at 32:3-7).) On August 15, 2012, Davis' ex-girlfriend, referred to throughout the briefing as "I.B.", called 911 after a physical altercation took place between her and Davis on the 500 block of Monroe Street and reported the incidents to the WPD. (Id. at 3 (citing Tr. at 32:10-18).) Specifically, on that date, pursuant to the affidavit of probable cause in support of the arrest warrant, Wilmington police officers responded to the area of West Ninth and Monroe Streets in reference to the assault and, upon arrival, made contact with I.B., who told the officers that Davis ran up to her at a location on the 500 block of North Monroe Street, followed her inside the residence, pulled her hair, punched her in the face with a closed fist and, ultimately, pulled her out of the residence, causing her to stumble down the front steps. (Id. (citing Gov't Ex. 2; Tr. at 32:12-14).) LB. also informed the officers that, on August 13 and August 14, 2012, Davis attacked her by slapping her, pulling her hair, and threatening her. (Id. (citing Tr. at 32:14-18).)

On this information, Detective Pfaff applied for the arrest warrant in connection with Davis' alleged violation of Delaware Criminal Code, Title 11, Section 611, Assault Third Degree. (D.I. 20 at 2.) Although the WPD considered Davis a person of interest in an ongoing homicide investigation at the time Detective Pfaff sought the arrest warrant, the application did not include any information to this affect. (Id.) The arrest warrant application did not specify whether officers anticipated that Davis would be armed or if he possessed a firearm during the alleged assaults. (Id.)

Detective Pfaff testified that, as part of their preparation to execute the arrest warrant, the WPD officers made the determination that they would use the assistance of the WPD SWAT Team. (D.I. 21 at 3 (citing Tr. at 34:15-21).) The WPD's SWAT Team is often utilized in executing "high risk warrants"—specifically, warrants where the subject has a violent criminal history and/or a history of utilizing weapons. (Id. at 3-4 (citing Tr. at 34:15-21; id. at 6:2-8).) Detective Pfaff testified that she communicated her findings regarding Davis' history of violence to her supervisor, who then, in turn, communicated those findings to Captain Browne, the officer in charge of the SWAT Team at the time of Davis' arrest. (Id. at 4 (citing Tr. at 36:8-16).)

Shortly thereafter, Detective Pfaff contacted Captain Browne and discussed apprehension of Davis. (Id. (citing Tr. at 7:4-13).) Detective Pfaff gave Captain Browne the location of the arrest warrant, 512 North Monroe Street, and, noted that, in addition to being wanted for domestic assault, Davis was a person of interest in a homicide investigation. (Id. (citing Tr. at 7:10-12).) Detective Pfaff further informed Captain Browne that the weapon used in the homicide had not been recovered. (Id. (citing Tr. at 7:15-16).) Captain Browne reviewed Davis' criminal history in the days leading to the execution of the arrest warrant and determined, along with the SWAT Team, that the warrant would be classified as "high-risk." (Id. (citing Tr. at 10:21-24).) Captain Browne testified that this determination was informed by certain aspects of Davis' criminal history—specifically, that Davis was a convicted felon with a history of resisting arrest and assaults on police officers. (Id. (citing Tr. at 12:21-25).) Captain Browne testified that Davis' convictions were of the type that would cause concern for both himself and members of the SWAT Team executing a warrant. (Id. (citing Tr. at 13:2-7).)

Specifically, the following criminal history items were relevant in this determination: (1) on August 1, 2003, Davis was arrested for resisting arrest and criminal trespassing; (2) on August 6, 2003, Davis was arrested for carrying a concealed and deadly weapon and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person; (3) on June 6, 2004, Davis was arrested for aggravated menacing, menacing, and resisting arrest; (4) on November 19, 2004, Davis pled guilty to first degree assault, second degree assault, and possession of a weapon by a prohibited person, after which he was sentenced to a five year term of incarceration; (5) Davis' conviction for carrying a concealed and dangerous instrument on December 19, 2005; (6) on March 31, 2010, Davis was arrested for resisting arrest; (7) on October 10, 2011, Davis was arrested for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, reckless endangering, and attempted assault; and (8) on February 23, 2012, Davis was arrested for resisting and hindering a police officer and this charge remained pending at the time the arrest warrant was executed.[2] (Id. at 4-5 (citation omitted).)

Having characterized the Davis arrest warrant as "high-risk, " the SWAT Team devised an entry plan for its execution and determined that they would establish a containment perimeter with nearby police units. (Id. at 5 (citing Tr. at 13:23-25).) At approximately 6:00 a.m., the SWAT Team, upon exiting their vehicles and approaching house, first checked to see if the front door was unlocked. (Id. (citing Tr. at 14:7-8).) The SWAT Team found the door unlocked, entered the residence, and, as soon as they crossed the front door threshold, announced their presence, yelling "Police! We have a search warrant!" (Id. (citing Tr. at 15:1-4, 7-15).) Captain Browne testified that it is the SWAT Team's practice to have multiple members make continuous announcements as they move throughout the residence so that the occupants know who they are and why they are there. (Id. (citing Tr. at 15:4-6).)

As Captain Browne entered the living room of the residence, he noticed a subject, later identified as Davis, laying on the floor apparently sleeping. (Id. at 6 (citing Tr. at 16:5-7).) Captain Browne commanded Davis to put his hands behind his back so that he could secure him, and placed Davis in handcuffs. (Id. (citing Tr. at 16:7-9).) Despite being cuffed, Davis did not remain still and began to roll over to his left in such a way that Captain Browne began to lose sight of his hands. (Id. (citing Tr. at 16:13-15).) Captain Browne ordered Davis not to move and leaned down to secure him, placing Davis face-down so that he could "maintain control of him for officer safety reasons." (Id. at (citing Tr. at 16:11-17).) As Captain Browne leaned down to secure Davis, he noticed a .38-caliber revolver underneath the coffee table, approximately twelve inches from Davis. (Id. (citing Tr. at 16:18-24).) Captain Browne announced that there was a weapon in the room and reestablished control of Davis, moving him away from the firearm. (Id. (citing Tr. at 17:6-7, 18:17-18).)

Detective Pfaff and the WPD Criminal Investigation Team entered the residence upon being advised by the SWAT Team that it was safe to do so and Captain Browne informed Detective Pfaff that the SWAT Team had located the firearm next to Davis. (Id. (citing Tr. at 37:5-9, 14-16).) The WPD investigators performed a protective sweep of the residence. (Id. (citing Tr. at 18:19-9-19:6).) Detective Pfaff observed the firearm and then left to obtain a search warrant for the residence. (Id. at 7 (citing Tr. at 37:15-16, 38:3-9).) Detective Pfaff testified that she believed she needed to obtain a search warrant because the original warrant was limited to a search for Davis' body and, therefore, the WPD would need a new warrant to search the house. (Id. (citing Tr. at 38:13-17).) Officers conducted a search of the residence when Detective Pfaff returned with the warrant, but did not uncover any additional weapons or ammunition. (Id. (citing Tr. at 38:23-24).) The only other item seized as a result of the search warrant was Davis' cell phone. (D.I. 20 at 3.) Davis was then taken back to the WPD headquarters, where he gave a post-Miranda statement admitting to possession of the firearm and noted that he purchased it for $150 from an unidentified male in Philadelphia because he believed his life was in danger. (D.I. 21 at 6 (citing D.I. 2 at H 8).)


Davis asserts that the evidence obtained as a result of the above-described arrest must be suppressed as the product of an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (D.I. 14; D.I. 15; D.I. 23.) Specifically, Davis contends that: (1) his prior "criminal history, by itself, did not create a sufficient threat for police to disregard the constitutionally imposed requirement to knock and announce their presence before entering a home on an arrest warrant" (D.I. 20 at 3); (2) "the circumstances of the case" did not "justify the police's failure to knock and announce" (id.); and (3) the exclusionary rule should apply in this case because the police entered the home unlawfully and the evidence seized would not have been found "but for" the unlawful entry (id.). In support of his position, Davis notes that Detective Pfaff admitted in her testimony that she obtained the warrant for his body hoping that the WPD would find the handgun used in the unsolved homicide while officers were inside the residence.[3] (Id. at 11-12.)

Conversely, the government argues that the firearm should be admitted because: (1) per Michigan v. Hudson, suppression is not a remedy available to Davis for an alleged violation of the knock and announce rule (D.I. 21 at 7 (citing 547 U.S. 586 (2006))); (2) even if Davis were entitled to suppression, which he is not, his claim would still fail because the WPD's decision to forego compliance with the knock and announce rule was reasonable due to the known and articulable danger that he posed to law enforcement (id. at 10-13); and (3) the law enforcement officers here executed the search in ...

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