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State v. Kwalalon

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

February 13, 2015


Submitted: December 12, 2014

Upon Defendant Ishmael Kwalalon's Motion to Suppress, DENIED.

Eric H. Zubrow, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for the State of Delaware.

Ross C. Karsnitz, Esquire (argued), Assistant Public Defender, Office of the Public Defender, John A. Barber, Law Office of John A. Barber, Wilmington, Delaware, for Defendant Ishmael Kwalalon.



I. Introduction

Defendant Ishmael Kwalalon ("Kwalalon") was arrested for two firearms that were found in his bedroom safe on December 20, 2013. He is, and was then, a person prohibited from possessing firearms due to a prior felony drug conviction.[1]Kwalalon asks this Court to exclude those firearms and some drug paraphernalia as evidence, even though they were obtained by the police during their search of his shared residence under the authority of a wholly valid search warrant. For the reasons set forth below, his motion is DENIED.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

The discovery of the firearms in Kwalalon's safe was the product of a nearly two-year-long investigation. In March of 2012, a confidential informant notified the Dover Police Department that George Shaheen ("Shaheen") was distributing cocaine in Kent and New Castle Counties.[2] The informant told the police that Shaheen had then-recently moved to 2 South Sherman Drive in Bear, Delaware, where he sold and kept cocaine.[3] The informant knew that Shaheen's cousin "Ish" shared the residence with him.[4] A Criminal Justice Information Services ("CJIS") search of residence data revealed that a "Samuel Kwalalon" owned and that Defendant Ishmael Kwalalon was associated with the residence.[5] Kwalalon's cell phone records demonstrated recurrent contact between Kwalalon and Shaheen.[6]

Members of the Dover Police and Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") made two controlled purchases from Shaheen at the Bear residence. During both purchases, the drugs were stored in the kitchen.[7] The informant also observed firearms in the residence during a purchase in January 2013, specifically a silver and purple Glock 40 caliber handgun and a chrome 9 millimeter firearm.[8]

In the early morning hours of December 20, 2013, the police conducted a "trash pull" at the residence.[9] In the trash contents, police found wrappers from kilos of drugs, other drug packaging, and mail addressed to Kwalalon.[10] They field tested a white powder found within the trash. It was cocaine.[11]

Later that day, the police applied for and were granted a search warrant for the residence. The search warrant, issued by this Court, identified the probable presence of narcotics and firearms there. And the warrant affidavit identified Kwalalon as a resident of the house.[12] The Delaware State Police, Dover Police Department, and DEA immediately executed the warrant.

Because of the potential presence of armed persons, the Special Operations Response Team ("SORT") conducted the initial sweep of the residence.[13] SORT simultaneously spread out through the residence to secure it prior to the actual search. Two South Sherman Drive is a three-story single-family home with an entrance through a glass slider at ground level and its main entrance on the second floor.[14] There is no obvious sub-uniting of the house, no separation of living spaces, just standard interior household doors between ordinary household rooms.[15] Nor are there any markers (e.g., name plates, numbering, or individual mailboxes) to indicate independent living units.[16] SORT forcibly entered each area and each room of the house – including Kwalalon's bedroom, which was locked with a standard internal bedroom door lock – to ensure a safe search environment for the officers who would be conducting the actual search for evidence.

That ensuing search revealed evidence of illegal activity in multiple rooms. On the first floor, determined to be Shaheen's bedroom, the authorities found powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and a firearm. In the kitchen, the police found drug paraphernalia associated with drug dealing. And in Kwalalon's bedroom they found the two firearms, ammunition and drug paraphernalia. Kwalalon was subsequently arrested and indicted on six counts: three counts of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited; one count of possession of a weapon with a removed, ...

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