Submitted: February 8, 2017
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID. No.
HOLLAND, VAUGHN and SEITZ, Justices.
COLLINS J. SEITZ, JR. JUSTICE
22nd day of February, 2017, having considered the
briefs and the record below, it appears to the Court that:
November 18, 2015, Detectives Alexis Schupp and Jose Cintron
of the Wilmington Police Department were on patrol near the
500 block of Maryland Avenue in Wilmington when they saw
Tariq Loat and Vaughn Rowe walking down the street. As Rowe
was walking, he kept reaching for his waistband, leading the
detectives to suspect he was carrying a gun. Because the
detectives were in plain clothes and an unmarked vehicle,
they called for uniformed officers to assist them in
approaching the men. Uniformed officers pulled up to Loat and
Rowe and asked to speak to them. Loat immediately took off
running. Rowe also attempted to flee, but an officer detained
him. Police later found a gun in his waistband. Another
officer chased after Loat, and ordered him to stop. The
police eventually detained Loat, and found a gun ten feet
away from where they found him.
Rowe moved to suppress the evidence arguing that police did
not have reasonable suspicion to stop him. Loat later joined
in that motion. After a hearing, the Superior Court denied
the motion. The court determined that the officers had seized
Loat and Rowe when they initially asked to speak with them.
Further, as to Loat, the court found that because the
defendants were in a high crime area, and because Detective
Schupp knew that Loat had access to firearms because he had
executed a "recent search warrant" at Loat's
home that yielded weapons, there was reasonable suspicion to
stop him. Further, the court held that when Loat ran away,
"there was reasonable articulable suspicion that [Loat]
was armed and [the] chase was appropriate and
lawful." Thus, the Superior Court declined to
suppress the evidence. The court later found Loat guilty of
various weapons offenses after a stipulated bench trial.
appeal, Loat raises two issues. First, he claims that the
trial court's determination that Detective Schupp had
"recently" executed a search warrant at Loat's
residence was clearly erroneous. Second, Loat claims that the
court erred when it held that the police had reasonable
suspicion to stop him. For the reasons discussed below, we
affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.
November 18, 2015, Detectives Schupp and Cintron of the
Wilmington Police Department were on patrol near the 500
block of Maryland Avenue in Wilmington. The detectives were
in plain clothes driving an unmarked police car. While at a
stop light, the detectives saw Loat and Rowe walking down
Maryland Avenue. Detective Schupp remembered Loat because he
had previously executed a search warrant at his house and
seized illegal guns from his family members. Loat was not the
subject of the warrant.
Detective Schupp noticed that Rowe's hand was
"plastered" against his side as if he was holding
something in his waistband. Rowe occasionally removed his
hand from his waistband, but repeatedly returned it as if he
were conducting a "security check" of the item he
had hidden there. The detectives suspected that Rowe was
carrying a gun. After watching Rowe and Loat for six to seven
minutes, they decided to question them. Because the
detectives were in plain clothes, they called for uniformed
officers to approach the men.
Corporals Daniel Moore and Gaetan MacNamara of the Wilmington
Police Department responded to the call. Corporal Moore
stepped out of the vehicle and asked Rowe and Loat,
"Hey, can I talk to you?" Loat immediately ran away.
Rowe attempted to run away, but Corporal Moore grabbed him
and restrained him on the sidewalk. At that point, Corporal
Deanne Warner arrived and took custody of Rowe. She found a
gun in Rowe's waistband.
Corporal MacNamara chased Loat. Loat grabbed his waistband,
and Corporal MacNamara yelled "stop, police!" He
believed Loat was attempting to grab a gun. Another officer
eventually caught Loat. When Corporal MacNamara caught up to
them, he saw a gun on the ground about ten feet from Loat.
Police arrested Loat and Rowe and charged them with
possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, possession of
ammunition by a person prohibited, and carrying a concealed
deadly weapon. Loat was also charged with resisting arrest,
and Rowe was charged with possession of a controlled
substance. On February 26, 2016, Rowe moved to
suppress the evidence, arguing that police obtained it as a
result of an unconstitutional seizure. On March 31, 2016,
Loat's counsel moved to join Rowe's motion to
suppress. The Superior Court held a hearing on the motion on
April 15, 2016.
the hearing, Detective Schupp testified that he knew Loat had
access to guns because he had previously executed a search
warrant at Loat's house. He also testified that criminals
typically pass weapons back and forth to elude police efforts
to locate firearms. Thus, based on Rowe's behavior and