Before Schwelb and Reid, Associate Judges, and Belson, Senior
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb, Associate Judge
Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Gregory E. Mize, Motions Judge) (Hon. Evelyn E. Queen, Trial Judge)
Following the denial of his motion to suppress tangible evidence, John Henry Davis, Jr., entered a conditional plea of guilty to possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute it (PWID). On appeal, Davis contends that the trial judge erred in denying his motion to suppress. Although we agree with the trial judge that the dispositive question, namely, whether the arresting officer had probable cause to search Davis, "is a close call indeed," we discern no error. Accordingly we affirm.
I. THE TRIAL COURT PROCEEDINGS
The sole witness at the hearing on Davis' motion was Officer Mark Frantzen of the United States Secret Service. Frantzen testified that at approximately 1:55 a.m. on September 23, 1995, he was transporting a recovered stolen Honda automobile to the Metropolitan Police Department's (MPD's) impound lot at 9th and L Streets in northwest Washington, D.C. Frantzen, who was in uniform, was driving south on 9th Street when he was flagged down by a citizen at the intersection of 9th and T Streets, N.W. The citizen, who was on foot, told the officer that he had seen a black man in a wheelchair in the 1800 block of 9th Street selling crack cocaine out of his right shoe. The citizen stated that the alleged seller had approximately twenty ziplock bags secreted in the shoe.
Officer Frantzen asked the informant to identify himself, but the man declined to do so. According to Frantzen, the citizen was acting very nervous. He wanted to get out of the area. He was being real brief with me. His statements were quick as far as the description of the individual and where the narcotics were . . . . He said he lived in the area and that, you know, he feared for his safety by giving this information to the police, that he just wanted to get this information out and be on his way.
The citizen did reveal that he had worked for Officer Queen, a vice officer from the MPD's Third District. Frantzen testified that he was acquainted with Queen.*fn1 Although Frantzen was able to recall and describe in some detail his informant's appearance,*fn2 he knew very little more about the man.*fn3
After receiving the tip, Officer Frantzen drove south on 9th Street and looked to his left on T Street. He observed a black man in a wheelchair at the exact location where the informant had said the suspect would be. Two other men were standing at a wrought iron fence gate nearby.
Officer Frantzen drove the stolen car to the impound lot a few blocks away. There, Frantzen advised his partner of the information that the citizen had provided, and the two officers proceeded to 9th and T Streets. The man in the wheelchair, later identified as appellant John Henry Davis, Jr., was still at the same location, and the two men Frantzen had seen before remained in the vicinity.
Officer Frantzen approached Davis*fn4 and noticed that the laces on Davis' work-type boots were untied. He told Davis that he (Frantzen) had received a complaint that Davis was selling narcotics in the area and that "I need to see, you know, if you [have] got any drugs on you." Davis responded that he was not selling drugs, and he denied that he had any drugs on him. Frantzen described the events that ensued:
Q. Okay. And what did you do next?
A. The citizen who had told me said it was in the right shoe. So, I immediately just went to the right shoe and looked to see if there [were] any narcotics there. And I found a sandwich bag with several ziplocks of a white rock like substance contained there.
A. At that time I called for another crime-scene-search officer to come and field test the narcotics, turned that over to him.*fn5 He field tested it.
Q. Well, let me stop you. After you found the sandwich bag in his foot did the defendant say anything?
A. Yes. He said, you got me.
Q. Did you prompt him in any way to ...