January 13, 2016.
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
(CF2-98-14). (Hon. Ronna Lee Beck, Trial Judge).
Daniels for appellant.
S. Smith, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Vincent
H. Cohen, Jr., Acting United States Attorney at the time the
brief was filed, and Elizabeth Trosman and Karen Seifert,
Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for
BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY and THOMPSON, Associate Judges, and FERREN,
Senior Judge. Opinion by Associate Judge Phyllis D. Thompson.
D. Thompson, Associate Judge:
convicted appellant Cian Pridgen of carrying a pistol without
a license, possession of an unregistered firearm, and
unlawful possession of ammunition, and (with appellant having
waived a jury trial on the charge) the court thereafter found
him guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
He seeks reversal of his convictions on the ground that the
trial court erroneously denied his motion to suppress the
tangible evidence against him, which he contends was the
fruit of an unlawful seizure. We affirm.
hearing on appellant's motion to suppress, Metropolitan
Police Department (MPD) Officer Jordan Katz testified that on
the evening of December 31, 2013, he and two other MPD
officers were on patrol near 3311 10th Place, S.E., an area
that Katz patrolled daily. The three officers, dressed in
plain clothes but with tactical vests that had "
Police" across the chest, were driving through the
area in an unmarked Ford Explorer with Florida tags with its
windows down, " looking for people with
guns." A few minutes before midnight, Officer Katz
spotted a man -- appellant -- who was about thirty yards away
and who was walking quickly on a footpath near an apartment
building, following a path that would ultimately cross in
front of the officers. At one point, Officer Katz testified,
appellant " stared right at" the officers and then
continued at his " quick" pace toward the
door" of the nearby apartment building. Officer Katz
testified that he then shined his flashlight on appellant,
leaned out of his vehicle window, and " loud[ly]
shout[ed]," " [H]ey, do you got a gun[?] [D]o you
got a gun[?]" Appellant took a couple of steps and then
began to run to the door of the apartment building. As he
ran, he was moving his right hand, but he kept the palm of
his left hand pressed against his jacket on his left side.
officers exited their vehicle and followed appellant to the
apartment building. Right after appellant got inside the
building, the officers saw him drop a cell phone, which he
did not stop to retrieve, even after the building door locked
behind him. Instead, appellant ran up the stairs to the door
of an apartment unit, continuing to hold his left side. The
apartment building had a glass front, and the officers could
see appellant with his body pressed against an apartment door
but with his left hand " moving all around that left
jacket pocket" as he was " struggl[ing]" to
get inside the apartment unit. The officers entered the
building after " a little kid" let them in. They
drew their guns and were " screaming" at appellant
to " stop, get on the ground," but appellant did
not respond to their demands. Officer Katz thought at
that point that appellant " has probably got a
gun."  The third officer grabbed appellant,
and the officers together forced him to the ground, face
down, and eventually handcuffed him, after pulling his hands
away from his waistband.
Katz testified that as he then reached under appellant's
left side, which appellant was keeping " pinned against
the ground[,]" he could feel the handle of a gun. In
addition, appellant's jacket " had flipped
over" as the officers struggled to handcuff him, and
Officer Katz saw a " green weed substance"
through appellant's right, mesh pocket and a handgun in
the left, mesh pocket.
defense did not put on any witnesses. The trial court (the
Honorable Ronna Beck) found that Officer Katz was " very
credible" and credited his testimony " in every
respect." Judge Beck then addressed whether the officers
" had specific and articulable facts which taken
together with rational inferences from those facts reasonably
warranted the officers to believe the defendant was
armed."  Judge Beck reasoned that a variety of
relevant factors were present, including the "
high[-]gun area," the " high[-]gun night"
(i.e., New Year's Eve, the " most fruitful
night" for recovering guns, according to Officer Katz),
and the fact that appellant " was walking fast and then
ran[.]" As to the last of those factors, Judge Beck
recognized that the pertinent question was whether it was
reasonable for the officers to assume that appellant's
" flight was indicative of consciousness of guilt as a
result of police presence."  Citing Smith v.
United States, 558 A.2d 312 (D.C. 1989), Judge
Beck reasoned that the fact that other people in the
neighborhood recognized the officers' vehicle as a police
vehicle was not enough to establish that appellant was aware
of a police presence. She observed, however, that "
there was more here." Specifically, she focused on the
evidence that the police vests " were potentially
visible through open windows[,]" on Officer Katz's
testimony that appellant looked in the direction of the
vehicle and subsequently ran, and on Officer Katz's
having leaned out of the vehicle window and yelled " do
you have a gun[,]" all of which the court found "
support the reasonable conclusion that the defendant's
. . . flight was consistent with consciousness of guilt in
response to the police presence." Judge Beck also relied
on the evidence that appellant " acted in a particularly
desperate effort to get away[,]" not stopping to
retrieve his dropped cell phone even though he " now . .
. ha[d] a locked door . . . safeguarding him." At that
point, Judge Beck found, the officers' police vests would
have been " very visible" to appellant. Judge Beck
determined that these additional facts made it reasonable for
the officers to believe that appellant's " response
was to a police presence."
Beck next focused on what she called the " additional
critical fact in evaluating whether [the officers had a basis
for] reasonable articulable suspicion that [appellant] was
armed" : the fact that " when [appellant] ran, he
put his hand up to his left side at the same time that his
right arm was swinging normally for running motion, which was
consistent with the officer's knowledge of how people act
when holding a gun in their waistband or pocket." Judge
Beck also cited the evidence that appellant was "
continuing his movements on his left side [" which he
had been holding when running" ] . . . while
frantically trying to get in[to] th[e] apartment[.]"
Beck found that " in combination," the foregoing
facts provided the police with reasonable articulable
suspicion that appellant was armed. In that circumstance, the
judge concluded, it was reasonable for the officers to draw
their guns and to order appellant to the ground, and it also
was reasonable for them to believe appellant knew they were
police officers. Judge Beck further concluded that when
appellant did not comply with the officers' orders, it
was reasonable for the officers, who faced a " very
dangerous situation," to restrain appellant " until
they could investigate the situation further" and
ascertain whether their suspicion that he was armed was
accurate. Judge Beck therefore denied the motion to suppress,
reasoning that the officers lawfully seized appellant, and
lawfully arrested him upon probable cause after they found a
gun and drugs in the course of trying to restrain him.
now urges us to reverse his convictions, contending that the
tangible evidence that provided the foundation for the
charges against him was unlawfully obtained. Specifically, he
argues the facts known to the police officers were
insufficient to give them a reasonable articulable basis for
seizing him. For the reasons that follow, we disagree.
Fourth Amendment guarantees the " right of the people to
be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable
searches and seizures[.]" U.S. Const. amend. IV. It is
well-established, however, that, consistent with the Fourth
Amendment, an officer may conduct a brief stop (a seizure)
" for investigatory purposes" when he has "
reasonable suspicion supported by specific and articulable
facts that the individual is involved in criminal
activity[.]" Robinson v. United States, 76 A.3d
329, 335-36 (D.C. 2013) (internal quotation omitted). If,
during the investigatory seizure, the officer " has
reasonable, articulable suspicion that the person detained is
armed and dangerous, an officer may also conduct a protective
frisk for weapons[,]" id. at 336 (internal