United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
REBECCA GRADY JENNINGS, DISTRICT JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
matter is before the Court on Defendant, Aaron Shelton's
(“Shelton”), Motion to Suppress Evidence
(“Motion to Suppress” or “Motion”).
[DE 43]. The Court held an evidentiary hearing. [DE 46].
Post-hearing briefs were filed. [DE 57, 58]. This matter is
now ripe. For the reasons below, the Court DENIES the Motion
to Suppress. [DE 43].
matter stems from a Terry stop and search of Shelton's
vehicle. Shelton challenges the constitutionality of the stop
and search of his vehicle as well as the voluntariness of his
waiver of Miranda rights. Late in the evening on February 1,
2019 or early the following morning, police began
investigating the death of an apparent overdose victim. [DE
49, Transcript of Suppression Hearing, dated Aug. 19, 2019
(“Tr.”) at 239:10-15; 287:23-88:7]. During the
investigation, police uncovered a phone No. they believed
belonged to the person who sold heroin to the victim.
[Id. at 239:10-15; 242:7-9]. Using a cooperating
witness, police set up a controlled buy with the person
operating the phone, who they believed to be Shelton, to take
place the evening of February 2, 2019. [Id. at
243:8-44:14]. Before the controlled buy, officers determined
that Shelton was the owner of a silver 2009 Pontiac G8.
[Id. at 242:7-15].
enforcement set up surveillance at the meet location and
observed a silver Pontiac G8 circling the area and pass by
the gas station where the meet was to occur at an abnormally
slow speed. [Id. at 244:1-7]. The cooperating
witness then received instructions from the phone No.
believed to be linked to Shelton stating that Shelton was
sending another individual to the meet location wearing a
hoodie. [Id. at 244:8-23]. Once the cooperating
witness arrived at the gas station, officers observed a man
in a hoodie, later identified as Shelton's co-defendant
Tajuan McDowell (“McDowell”), approach the gas
station. [Id. at 244:18-245:2]. Officers came up to
the gas station, and McDowell briefly tried to flee. Officers
tackled McDowell and placed him under arrest. [Id.
at 245:3-9]. Officers observed McDowell make a throwing
motion while trying to flee and officers found three bindles
of suspected heroin about eight to ten feet from where
McDowell was tackled. [Id. at 245:10-14].
his arrest, McDowell stated that an individual named
“Aaron” sent him to the gas station to complete
the transaction and that Aaron “was a black male with a
gold chain and suggested that he could be found in the
apartments in a silver Pontiac G8.” [Id. at
245:15-25]. An officer at the scene relayed that information
over the radio. [Id. at 246:4-10]. Another officer,
Officer Gadegaard, located a silver Pontiac in a nearby
apartment complex. [Id. at 262:20-63:5]. As Officer
Gadegaard approached the vehicle in his car, the silver
Pontiac G8 pulled out from its parking spot onto the street.
[Id. at 263:21-24]. Officer Gadegaard testified that
it appeared to him that the vehicle was “trying to
evade [him]” because the car turned quickly and
increased speed when he pulled behind the Pontiac G8.
[Id. at 264:1-9]. Officer Gadegaard then initiated a
stop by turning on his car's lights and sirens.
[Id.]. Officer Gadegaard's car was then struck
by Shelton's car. [Id.]. Officers removed
Shelton from the vehicle and placed in handcuffs. Officers
found a small quantity of marijuana and a lighter on
Shelton's person. [Id. at 276:19-21]. Officers
observed a “quantity of currency and several cell
phones in plain view on the floorboard of the car.”
[Id. at 275:14-16]. Within minutes of the stop, a
canine was brought to the scene and alerted on the exterior
of the vehicle. [Id. at 277:15-20; 284:7-15].
Officers then searched the car and recovered the cellphones
and large amount of U.S. currency. [Id. at
scene, officers advised Shelton of his Miranda rights.
[Id. at 277:6-12]. Shelton was taken to the DEA for
an interview. [Id. at 280:3-4]. He was provided a
written copy of his Miranda rights, and a DEA agent explained
those rights to him. [Id. at 280:8-11]. Shelton made
several statements, and then invoked his right to counsel.
[Id. at 280:14-82:4]. After Shelton invoked his
right to counsel, questioning ceased. [Id.].
is well settled that in seeking suppression of evidence the
burden of proof is upon the defendant to display a violation
of some constitutional or statutory right justifying
suppression.” United States v.
Rodriquez-Suazo, 346 F.3d 637, 643 (6th Cir. 2003)
(quoting United States v. Feldman, 606 F.2d 673, 679
n.11 (6th Cir. 1979)). The defendant's burden extends to
both “the burden of production and persuasion.”
United States v. Patel, 579 Fed.Appx. 449, 453 (6th
moves to suppress all statements and evidence obtained from
the February 2, 2019 stop and search of his vehicle arguing
that the officers lacked probable cause to conduct the
traffic stop. [DE 57 at 338-39]. Shelton also argues that
even if the officers had probable cause to stop the vehicle,
they did not have probable cause to search the vehicle.
[Id.]. Finally, Shelton argues that even if the stop
was proper, the officers impermissibly questioned Shelton in
violation of his Miranda rights. [Id. at 339-40].
Officers had reasonable suspicion to stop
police are permitted ‘to stop a person when the officer
has reasonable, articulable suspicion that the person has
been, is, or is about to be engaged in criminal
activity.'” United States v. Slater, 209
Fed.Appx. 489, 495 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting United States
v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 227 (1985)). To show
reasonable, articulable suspicion the officer must point to
“specific and articulable facts, which taken together
with rational inferences from those facts, ” reasonably
suggest than criminal activity has occurred or is imminent.
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968). Reasonable
suspicion cannot be based on “inchoate and
unparticularized suspicion or ‘hunch,' but [on] the
specific reasonable inferences which he is entitled to draw
from the facts in light of his experience.”
Id. at 27. In evaluating whether an officer had
reasonable suspicion, courts look at the “totality of
the circumstances” and consider “all of the
information available to law enforcement officials at the
time.” United States v. Urrieta, 520 F.3d 569,
573 (6th Cir. 2008).
argues that officers lacked reasonable suspicion because the
only information officers had were three-year-old phone
records linking Shelton to the phone used to set up the
controlled buy. [DE 57 at 338-39]. He also argues that the
suspicion about Shelton should have dissipated when officers
arrested McDowell because “they had the man actually
conducting the narcotics transaction in custody.”
[Id. at 339]. First, shortly before the controlled
buy took place the cooperating witness received instructions
that Shelton would be sending another individual to the gas
station to conduct the transaction. [Tr. at 244:8-23]. Based
on this instruction, officers could reasonably believe that
there were at least two individuals involved in the narcotics
transaction, and their continued suspicion about Shelton was
warranted. Second, officers had far more information than
just the phone No. connecting Shelton to the controlled buy.
while the cell phone records connecting Shelton to the phone
No. may be three-years-old, officers obtained other, more
recent information connecting Shelton to the controlled buy.
For example, the officers observed the same color and model
of car Shelton owned circling the area of the meet location
in a suspicious manner. Officers also obtained information
from McDowell at the scene of the controlled buy, which
supported reasonable suspicion that Shelton was engaged in
criminal activity. McDowell stated that “Aaron”
was the one who sent him to the gas station and “he
could be found in the apartments in a silver Pontiac
G8.” [Tr. at 245:18-25]. The description provided by
McDowell, which specified where Shelton was, and corroborated
other information known by the officers, such as the model
and color of Shelton's car, supported reasonable,
articulable suspicion that Shelton was involved in the
narcotics transaction. See, e.g., United States v.
Schaafsma,318 F.3d 718, 722 (7th Cir. 2003) (finding
that where an individual involved in a drug sale stated that
another person was involved and indicated that he was in a
car in a nearby parking lot there was probable cause to
arrest defendant when officers observed a car in that parking
lot trying to leave upon informant's arrest); see also
Neal v. Melton,453 Fed.Appx. 572, 579 (6th Cir.
2011) (finding that Terry stop was proper when the reasonable
suspicion was ...