United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BURKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Jose Antonio Tejada-Ardon filed a Motion to Suppress (doc.
12), and the United States of America (the “United
States”) filed a response (doc. 14). The Court held a
hearing on the Motion to Suppress on April 11, 2019. The
parties have also submitted post-hearing briefs. (Docs. 24,
25). Therefore, the Motion to Suppress is ready for review.
For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Suppress is
granted in part and denied in part.
The Encounter with the defendant on December 31,
events leading up to the arrest of defendant on December 31,
2018, occurred on property owned by United States Steel that
borders, in part, I-459 North in Hoover, Alabama, around mile
markers 11 and 12. (Doc. 21, pp. 4; Do c . 19-12, p. 2 (Ala.
Uniform Incident/Offense Rep., p. 2)). The property consists
of around 135 acres within the city limits of Hoover and is
near, or adjacent to, at least one shopping center and a
residential neighborhood. (Doc. 21, pp. 21, 23-24, 27-28, 48,
103-04, 109, 115; Do c. 19-1 (Aerial photograph)). The
property was leased by Robert Barton for recreational and bow
hunting purposes. (Doc. 21, p. 100). Barton's friend,
Erik Stahr, was the only other person who had Barton's
permission to use the property. (Id.). Prior to
December 31, Barton had found evidence of hunting activity,
including a headless deer and some footprints that did not
belong to himself or Stahr. (Id. at 101, 118).
Because of this, Barton and Stahr went to the property on the
morning of December 31 with the intention of placing cameras
and putting up more property line markers and boundary signs.
had forgotten the cameras so he went to I-459 to meet his
son, who was bringing him the cameras. (Id. at 101).
While Barton was gone, Stahr heard gunshots. (Id. at
118). Barton eventually met back up with Stahr on the
property, and they heard more gunshots. (Id. at
101-02, 118). As a result, Barton attempted to make contact
with Officer Kerry Bradford with the Alabama Department of
Conservation and Natural Resources, but was only able to
leave a voicemail. (Id. at 113). Barton also called
911 to report illegal hunting activity and to request that
City of Hoover police officers respond to the scene.
(Id. at 20, 103, 119; Do c . 19-12 (Ala. Uniform
Incident/Offense Rep., p. 2)). This call occurred
approximately around 10 a.m. (Id. at 13).
went to I-459 to meet the Hoover police officers, Officer
Cedric Acoff and Officer Hess (collectively, the
“Hoover police officers”). (Id. at 104).
Mo r e gunshots were fired after Officer Acoff and Officer
Hess arrived. (Id. at 7, 21-23). Because of the
rough terrain, Starh transported Officer Hess and Officer
Acoff, separately, to the property on an all-terrain vehicle.
(Id. at 22-23). Barton and Stahr informed Officer
Acoff that the four individuals did not have permission to be
on their leasehold. (Id. at 6, 30). Officer Acoff
was aware that Barton was or had contacted Officer Bradford.
(Id. at 29). The four men lined up and then spread
out to search the property. (Id. at 8, 119). On the
ground, there were fresh blood trails and empty shotgun and
rifle casings. (Id. at 119). Around this time,
Officer Bradford called Barton and told Barton that he was on
the way; while on the phone with Barton, Officer Bradford
heard gunshots. (Id. at 47, 106). Officer Bradford
had dealt with Barton and Stahr before and testified that the
information Barton gives is credible. (Id. at 46).
fifteen to twenty minutes after the search began, Stahr and
Officer Acoff encountered four Hispanic males at or around
the same time. (Doc. 21, pp. 8, 13; Do c . 19 -12 (Ala.
Uniform Incident/Offense Rep., p. 2)). All four men,
including the defendant, were armed with a long gun. (Doc.
21, pp. 9-10, 25). Officer Acoff commanded the four men to
stop, drop their weapons and let him see their hands; the
four men complied. (Doc. 21, pp. 8-10, 30, 120). The four men
were ordered to walk to Officer Acoff, which required them to
cross a small creek; the four men were then handcuffed.
(Id. at 10, 30-31, 121). Offier Acoff observed what
he believed to be deer hair on the defendant. (Doc. 21, p.
15). Stahr went across the creek to retrieve the four weapons
and a backpack. (Id. at 31, 121).
Acoff testified that the defendant was the only one of the
four who spoke English, and that he may have spoken to the
defendant at that point. (Id. at 14, 35). Other
testimony indicates that there was some conversation between
at least the defendant and the Hoover police officers,
although the extent or topic of any such conversation is not
clear. (Id. at 107-10, 124). Officer
Acoff did not tell the suspects that they were under arrest
because, according to him, he and Officer Hess were there to
simply investigate and detain the suspects until Officer
Bradford arrived. (Id. at 16-17). Officer Acoff
never recited to the defendant his Miranda rights.
(Id. at 36). Officer Acoff does not know whether
Officer Hess read Miranda rights to the defendant.
four suspects, including the defendant, were escorted from
the property to the right-of-way off I-459; th e distance to
I-459 was approximately several hundred yards. (Doc. 21, p.
31). Although it is not clear how long this walk took,
testimony indicates that it was longer than it took to walk
into the property (i.e., over fifteen minutes), that
defendants were in the woods, that the woods were very steep
and the terrain rough, and there was not an easy way to get
back to I-459. (Id. at 14, 106, 122). Officer
Bradford met Officer Acoff and Officer Hess and the four
suspects on the right-of-way. (Id. at 33).
Bradford guessed that he arrived on the scene around 12:00 or
12:30 p.m. (Id. at 38). Officer Bradford observed
the four suspects seated on the ground and handcuffed.
(Id. at 40). While on the scene, Officer Bradford
took statements from Barton and Officer Acoff.
(Id.). Around this time, Officer Bradford also
contacted Officer Hinkle with Immigrations and Customs
Enforcement (“ICE”). (Doc. 21, pp. 71, 95-96; Do
c. 20-3 (DHS Report)). Officer Bradford took possession of
the four weapons and the backpack. (Doc. 21, pp. 41, 62).
Those weapons were a Winchester Ranger .30-30 (the
“30-30 rifle”); another rifle; and two shotguns.
(Doc. 21, pp. 35, 51-52, 56-57; Do c . 19-12 (Ala. Uniform
Incident/Offense Rep., p. 2)). The backpack contained
approximately 230 bullets. (Doc. 21, p. 51).
Bradford testified that he was told by the Hoover police
officers that the four suspects had been found out in the
woods, and the defendant had admitted to shooting two deer.
(Id. at 41-42, 49). Officer Bradford testified that
one of the suspects had deer hair and blood on his clothes.
(Id. at 50). Officer Bradford also determined that
none of the suspects, including the defendant, had a hunting
license. (Doc. 21, pp. 42, 58). Officer Bradford testified
that he did not arrest the four suspects, including the
defendant, that day. (Id. at 43). Instead, Officer
Bradford obtained warrants for the four suspects' arrest
the next business day for hunting without permission, hunting
without a license, hunting without hunter orange, and failure
to possess a buck harvest record. (Id. at 43-44, 53;
Do c. 19-2 (Ala. Uniform Incident/Offense Rep. Supplement);
Do c . 1 9-9 (Evidence Tracking Form)).
Hinkle arrived on the scene right after Officer Bradford
arrived and while Officer Bradford was conducting his
investigation. (Doc. 20-3 (D HS Report); Doc. 21, pp. 18, 55,
71)). It is not entirely clear how much time elapsed from
when the defendant was initially handcuffed until Officer
Hinkle arrived on the scene, however. Officer Hinkle
questioned the four suspects, including the defendant,
regarding their country of birth, country of citizenship,
name, date of birth, and legal status in the United States.
(Doc. 21, pp. 76, 98; Doc 20-3 (D HS Report)). Officer Hinkle
told Officer Bradford that he believed that the four suspects
were unlawfully present in the United States. (Id.
at 55-56). During a search incident to arrest, two rounds of
ammunition were found by Officer Hinkle in the
defendant's right front pocket and twenty-one rounds were
found in his left front pants pocket. (Id. at 57,
63; Doc. 19-9 (Evidence Tracking Form); Do c . 20 -3 (DHS
four suspects were transported to the Office of Homeland
Security in Homewood, Alabama. (Doc. 21, p. 56). While
Officer Bradford was standing with Officer Hinkle at the
Homeland Security Office, Officer Bradford asked the
defendant whether the 30-30 rifle was his, and the defendant
said, “Yes.” (Id. at 62). Officer
Bradford never read the defendant his Miranda
rights. (Id. at 65). The defendant was taken ...