United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
P. Mehta, United States District Court Judge.
24, 2019, a grand jury indicted Defendant Gerald Meekins on
one count of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition
by a Person Convicted of a Crime Punishable by Imprisonment
for a Term Exceeding One Year, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1). See Indictment, ECF No. 1.
Defendant now moves to suppress the gun and ammunition he is
alleged to have possessed. The government claims that
Defendant tossed the loaded gun to the ground as officers
approached him, thereby abandoning any expectation of privacy
in the weapon. Defendant, on the other hand, argues that the
officers lacked reasonable suspicion to seize him and that
his alleged tossing of the weapon occurred after the
illegal seizure. This sequence of events, he contends, makes
the gun and ammunition fruit of the illegal seizure and thus
subject to suppression. See Def.'s Mot., ECF No.
12 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.].
reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is denied.
Findings of Fact
following findings of fact are based on (1) the testimony of
Officer Merissa McCaw, the lone witness called by either
party during the suppression hearing held on March 1, 2019;
(2) evidence presented at the hearing, including body-worn
camera footage; and (3) evidence submitted with the
26, 2018, at approximately 11:50 p.m., Officers Matthew
Hiller, Matthew Mancini, and Merissa McCaw of the
Metropolitan Police Department's (“MPD”)
Narcotics and Special Investigations Division Gun Recovery
Unit were on patrol within the Seventh District in the
District of Columbia. See Tr. of May 1, 2019,
Hr'g. on Mot. to Suppress, ECF No. 34 [hereinafter
Hr'g. Tr.], at 52-54. The officers were assigned to this
area as part of the MPD's “Summer Crime Initiative,
” a program to increase police presence in parts of the
city with the most violent crime. Id. at 50-53. The
three officers were wearing plain clothes with outer tactical
vests marked “POLICE” on the front and back, and
they patrolled the area in an unmarked car. Id. at
54. Officer Hiller was at the wheel. Id. at 55.
driving westbound on the 2000 block of Savannah Terrace,
Southeast, the officers observed Defendant walking alone in
the same direction in which they were heading. Id.
at 54. The officers noticed that Defendant was walking with
both hands held close to his body and balled up in front of
his waistband. Id. Based on this hand position,
Officer Hiller slowed the car and pulled up next to
Defendant. Id. at 54-55. While driving slowly
alongside Defendant, through the open window of the police
car and separated from Defendant by a row of parked cars,
Officer Hiller identified himself as a police officer and
asked, “Everything good?” Id. at 55, 59.
Defendant replied, “I'm good, ” and continued
to walk with his hands balled in front of his waistband.
Id. at 55.
Hiller then asked Defendant, “No guns, right?”
Id. Defendant continued to walk down the street and
responded, “I'm just going home.”
Id. at 60. Officer Hiller then asked him, “Do
you mind showing me your waistband?” Id. At
this point, Officer Hiller cast his flashlight on Defendant.
See Gov't. Hr'g Ex. 1 (Body Cam Footage from
Officer McCaw) [hereinafter Ex. 1], at 1:51. Defendant looked
down to his waistband and, while keeping his left hand balled
in front of his waistband, grabbed but did not lift the right
side of his shirt. Hr'g. Tr. at 55, 61.
McCaw testified that the officers, at that time, decided to
stop and get out of the car. Their intent was to do a
pat-down of Defendant. Id. at 56, 149. Officer McCaw
deemed Defendant's behavior suspicious because of his
“unusual” hand position and walk, and because he
had not directly answered whether he had a gun and he had
refused to show his waistband. Id. at 148. According
to Officer McCaw, after Defendant did not lift his waistband,
“all of us believed he had a firearm in his
waistband.” Id. at 56.
Officers Mancini and McCaw got out of the car, both turned on
their body-worn cameras, which began recording both audio and
video. Ex. 1 at 1:57. Neither officer drew a weapon. Officer
McCaw testified that, while rounding a parked SUV, she
momentarily lost sight of Defendant and that, upon seeing him
again, Defendant had his shirt pulled up with his hands in
the air. Hr'g Tr. at 55. While walking towards Defendant,
Officer Mancini asked, “Just no gun on you,
boss?” Id. at 55-56; Ex. 1. at
2:03. With Defendant now having stopped, Officer
Mancini continued to approach and said to Defendant,
“Can you spread your legs, I'm going to pat you
down real quick.” Hr'g. Tr. at 115, 138; Ex. 1 at
2:08. Officer McCaw testified that throughout the encounter,
the officers and Defendant remained calm, and the video
recordings confirm this. Hr'g. Tr. at 59, 96, 102.
Hiller initially remained in the car. After Officers McCaw
and Mancini got out and began walking towards Defendant,
Officer Hiller saw Defendant reach into his waistband, pull
out an object, and make a tossing motion down and away from
his body. Id. at 56. Officer Hiller then left the
car, walked in front of a parked car, pointed his flashlight
towards the ground where he had seen Defendant make a tossing
motion, and saw what he immediately identified as a firearm.
Id. Officer Hiller then voiced the Unit's code
word for the presence of a firearm, walked towards Defendant,
and placed him into a “bear hug, ” a maneuver
designed to prevent the suspect from moving or being able to
access a firearm. Id. at 101-02; Ex. 1 at 2:11.
Officers then handcuffed Defendant and placed him under
arrest, and Hr'g. Tr. at 102; Ex. 1 at 2:14, and later
seized the firearm, a 9-millimeter handgun loaded with one
round of ammunition in the chamber and 12 rounds in the
magazine. Hr'g. Tr. at 70.