United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Russell, Senior Judge.
matter is before the Court upon Defendant Eric Scott
Keeling's motion to suppress. [DN 13.] The Court held a
suppression hearing on March 29, 2017 and received
post-hearing briefs from the parties. [DN 21; DN 25.]
Keeling's motion is ripe for adjudication. For the
following reasons, his motion to suppress is DENIED.
case arises from Eric Keeling's arrests on February 15
and July 29, 2016. As a result of those arrests, Keeling
stands charged with one count of possession of
methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, one count of
being a felon in possession of firearms in furtherance of a
drug trafficking crime, and two counts of being a felon in
possession of firearms and ammunition. See [DN 1.]
Keeling moves to suppress the evidence and statements
stemming from each arrest.
2014, the Greater Hardin County Narcotics Task Force began
investigating the trafficking of crystal methamphetamine
through Bloomfield and Chaplin, two small towns in Nelson
County, Kentucky. [DN 16 at 5.] Early in its investigation,
the task force suspected that Eric Keeling was possibly
manufacturing methamphetamine. [Id.] On February 15,
2016, the task force received information from a confidential
source (CS) that Keeling would be bringing methamphetamine
from Louisville to Chaplin. [Id. at 6-8.] Michael
Watts, a narcotics detective employed by the Nelson County
Sheriff's Department, testified that the CS had
previously provided Watts with reliable information regarding
the task force's narcotics investigation. [Id.
at 8.] On this occasion, the CS told the task force Keeling
was driving a green truck, delivering a quantity of
methamphetamine from Louisville to Chris Evans' house in
Chaplin. [Id. at 6-8, 10.] After receiving this
information, the task force attempted to get back in touch
with the CS to set up a controlled narcotics purchase, but
they were unable to reach the CS. [Id. at 9.]
the task force set up surveillance on Evans' home.
[Id. at 9-10.] Like Keeling, Evans was a person of
interest in the task force's investigation. Law
enforcement had received complaints that Evans was dealing
methamphetamine, and Evans had recently been arrested by the
Bloomfield Police Department. [Id. at 10.] Detective
Watts characterized Evans' residence as a “drug
house.” [Id.] The task force also knew Evans
and Keeling had a close relationship, and Keeling had
borrowed Evans' vehicle on a prior occasion.
upon the information they received from the CS and their
suspicion that Keeling and Evans were trafficking
methamphetamine, members of the task force decided to stake
out Evans' house, in hopes Keeling would arrive. Several
law enforcement officers were involved in the operation:
Detective Michael Watts, Captain McKenzie Mattingly,
Bardstown Police Department Sergeant Kyler Wright, and Nelson
County Sheriff's Deputies A.J. Lewis and Levi Preston.
[Id. at 11.] Watts told his fellow task force
members Keeling was a “key player” in
methamphetamine trafficking, he had previously resisted
arrest, and there was a possibility Keeling could be armed.
[Id. at 11-12.] The task force was also aware
Keeling was a convicted felon. [Id. at 12.]
evening, Detective Watts and Captain Mattingly positioned
themselves across the street from Evans' house, about
fifty to one hundred yards away. [Id. at 29.] They
were not observing Evans' residence directly, but rather
were viewing live video from a pole camera put up
specifically for this investigation. [Id. at 30-31.]
The other officers were stationed west of Evans' house on
Lawrenceburg Road. [Id. at 14.] Around 11:00 p.m.,
Keeling arrived at Evans' house in a green truck.
[Id. at 15, 29.] Viewing the video stream on an
iPad, Watts and Mattingly saw Keeling go inside Evans'
residence. [Id. at 31-32.] They could not see if
Keeling was carrying anything. [Id.] Keeling stayed
inside for fifteen to twenty minutes. [Id. at
14-15.] Detective Watts testified that this time frame was
sufficient for Keeling and Evans to “sit down and
conduct business.” [Id. at 15.]
left Evans' house and headed east on Lawrenceburg Road.
[Id. at 15.] At this point, Watts testified that the
task force had decided to attempt a traffic stop.
[Id.] Watts radioed the other officers, but they
lost sight of Keeling's vehicle before they could pull
him over. [Id. at 16.] Believing Keeling
couldn't have gone far, the task force officers continued
to patrol the Chaplin area. [Id.] Watts and
Mattingly drove to a nearby house belonging to Johnny Janes.
[Id. at 16-17.] The task force believed Janes was
also involved in drug activity, as they “had several
arrests [and] people with drug charges pulled out of [his]
residence.” [Id. at 17.] Further, Watts
believed Keeling was dating Janes' daughter, Amanda
Bivens. [Id.] As they passed Janes' house,
located at the corner of Lawrenceburg Road and Broadway
Street, Watts and Mattingly saw Keeling's truck in the
driveway. [Id.] They took up a position further down
Broadway, from which they could observe Janes' house and
Keeling's truck. [Id. at 18.]
twenty minutes later, Keeling and a passenger left Janes'
house, got in Keeling's truck, and started driving south
on Broadway toward Watts and Mattingly. [Id.] The
two officers were in Mattingly's unmarked truck, and
Mattingly was driving. [Id. at 19-20.] As Keeling
approached, Mattingly pulled out in front of Keeling and
drove slowly so the other task force officers could catch up.
[Id. at 19.] Watts believes this action
“spooked” Keeling, and he made a quick turnaround
in the parking lot of a school. [Id. at 19.]
Watching through the rearview mirror, Watts testified that
Keeling did not signal his turn into the parking lot.
[Id. at 20.] Watts said Keeling's turn was
“abrupt, ” and that Keeling “whipped it in
there pretty quick.” [Id. at 19, 20.] Keeling,
now northbound on Broadway, attempted to turn back onto
Lawrenceburg Road. However, by that time the other officers
had reached the location, and met Keeling's vehicle at
the intersection of Broadway and Lawrenceburg Road.
[Id. at 20.]
marked cruisers stopped Keeling at the intersection. One car
was driven by Sergeant Kyler Wright. Wright testified that
when he activated his emergency equipment, Keeling
“immediately started to reach over towards the center
floorboard of the vehicle.” [Id. at 46.]
Wright exited his cruiser, drew his weapon, and told Keeling
to show his hands. [Id. at 49.] By this time, Deputy
A.J. Lewis had arrived on the scene and blocked Keeling's
vehicle in from the rear. [Id. at 65.] Lewis
testified he also saw Keeling lower his right hand towards
his waistline. [Id. at 66.] In response, Lewis drew
his own weapon and ordered Keeling to put his hands back up.
[Id.] Lewis then opened the truck's door, took
Keeling out of the vehicle, and put him on the ground.
[Id.] Lewis handcuffed Keeling and walked him back
to Lewis's cruiser. [Id.] There, he conducted a
pat-down search of Keeling's person and discovered a
small handgun in Keeling's right coat pocket.
[Id. at 66-67.] Deputy Preston secured Amanda
Bivens, Keeling's passenger. [Id. at 67.]
after the officers secured Keeling and Bivens, Detective
Watts and Captain Mattingly caught back up. They asked
Sergeant Wright to walk his drug-sniffing dog Zeus around
Keeling's truck. [Id. at 50.] Wright testified
that Zeus, now retired from the police force, was trained to
detect methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.
[Id. at 47.] According to Wright, Zeus was trained
to indicate the presence of narcotics by sitting down.
[Id. at 52-53.] Zeus first indicated on the
driver's side door of Keeling's truck. [Id.
at 52.] Based upon that indication, Wright led Zeus into the
truck's interior, where he again alerted to the presence
of narcotics on the center floorboard area. [Id.]
Wright returned Zeus to his cruiser and the officers searched
Keeling's truck by hand, discovering two additional
firearms and narcotics under the passenger seat.
[Id. at 59-60.] Following his February 15 arrest,