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United States v. Perdue

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

August 1, 2019




         This case is before the court on Defendant Christopher Ryan Perdue's (“Perdue” or “Defendant”) Motion to Suppress Evidence and Statements (Doc. # 13), filed April 16, 2019. In his Motion, Defendant seeks to suppress (1) all physical evidence obtained from what he contends was a warrantless search of his bedroom and (2) all pre- and post-Miranda statements he made during and after the search. (Id. at 1). Specifically, Defendant claims that on October 23, 2018, law enforcement officers violated his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights when, without a warrant or his consent, they unlawfully entered and searched a bedroom he contends he was occupying, seized evidence from the bedroom, arrested him without a warrant, and elicited incriminating statements from him in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 385 U.S. 436 (1966). (Id.). He also asks the court to suppress all post-Miranda statements as fruit of the prior unlawful search conducted earlier that day. (Id.).

         After holding a suppression hearing on June 10, 2019, the court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefing. The Motion is now fully briefed (Docs. # 14, 27-28) and ripe for review. After careful consideration, and for the reasons explained below, the court concludes that Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence and Statements (Doc. # 13) is due to be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Findings of Fact

         During the hearing, the court heard testimony from two witnesses: Talladega Police Department (“TPD”) Detectives Jeremy Falkner[1] and Todd Williamon.[2] The court also accepted into evidence and reviewed three body camera videos from the responding officers, the consent-to-search form which the actual homeowner of the subject property executed, and a video and transcript of Defendant's post-Miranda interview. After hearing the testimony at the suppression hearing and assessing the witnesses' credibility, the court makes the following factual findings:

         1. On October 21, 2018, the TPD opened an investigation concerning a report of stolen property and a related assault that allegedly occurred at a local mechanic's shop. The complainant, Ronald Roberts, worked at the mechanic's shop. He initially called the TPD to report that Terrika Brewer, whom he referred to as a friend, had been stealing property from his employer.

         2. Roberts called the TPD again later that day and alleged that Brewer and Defendant (who was Brewer's boyfriend at the time) returned to the shop, assaulted him, and left the scene in a 2002 Ford Explorer that belonged to one of the shop's customers. Roberts also claimed that Defendant and Brewer stole his cell phone, cash, keys to the shop, keys to about eight other vehicles, and a “Snap-On scan tool” (an automotive diagnostic tool). The TPD reported the Explorer as stolen.

         3. Talladega Police Detective Jeremy Falkner was assigned to work the investigation.

         4. Detective Falkner had dealt with both Brewer and Defendant several times before (since their teenage years). He knew Defendant as a drug abuser who had a reputation for carrying firearms and running from the police. Detective Falkner also knew that Brewer was a drug abuser with a history of minor thefts.

         5. Detective Falkner did not know where Brewer was living at the time. As recently as a few weeks before the subject incident, Detective Falkner heard that Defendant was living at an apartment complex, the Talladega Downs, with his mother.

         6. Detective Falkner also knew Brewer had recently spent time with Wayne Collier. Collier owned a three-bedroom residence on Brady Street in Talladega, Alabama. Collier had a reputation with the TPD because he frequently allowed drug abusers to temporarily stay at this house in exchange for drugs. Over the past five years, the TPD had discovered stolen property at his residence, particularly vehicles. Detective Falkner had never seen Defendant at Collier's residence, but he knew that Brewer had spent time there.

         7. Two days after the report was made, on October 23, 2018 at approximately 10:00 a.m., Detective Falkner drove by Collier's house hoping to locate the Ford Explorer reported stolen. In fact, the vehicle was found parked outside the residence and Detective Falkner suspected that Defendant and Brewer were inside.

         8. Once he saw the stolen Explorer, Detective Falkner called the TPD to ascertain whether Defendant had any outstanding warrants. He discovered that Defendant had three misdemeanor traffic warrants. He then drove back to the TPD, retrieved the warrants, and returned to Collier's residence.

         9. Detective Falkner also summoned Detective Williamon, Detective McDaniel, Officer Layton, Officer Cavender, and Vincent Pitts (Officer Cavender's shadow) to the scene. All six TPD personnel arrived at Collier's residence at the same time.

         10. Detective Falkner left the traffic-related warrants in his vehicle and instructed the other officers to set up a perimeter outside the house.

         11. He went to the front door of Collier's residence and knocked. An occupant named David Morgan answered the door. Morgan told Detective Falkner that Collier, the homeowner, was in his bedroom. He did not allow the officers to enter at that time.

         12. Moments later, Collier appeared and identified himself as the owner of the home. He seemed groggy like he had just woken up, but otherwise seemed normal based on Detective Falkner's past experiences with him. Detective Falkner told Collier that he and his officers were investigating a stolen vehicle and looking for Defendant and Brewer. Collier confirmed that Defendant and Brewer were sleeping in the second bedroom towards the back of the house. The second bedroom had an exterior door that allowed ingress and egress form outside the house.

         13. Detective Falkner asked Collier if he and his other officers could enter the house and search for Defendant and Brewer. Collier agreed and stepped aside to let them inside the house.

         14. Detective Falkner kept his weapon in its holster and did not threaten or coerce Collier into compliance. In fact, both Detective Falkner and Detective Williamon had received Collier's consent to enter and search his home on at least two prior occasions and related to other cases. Each time, Collier readily gave consent for the officers to search his entire home.

         15. While this exchange took place, the officers outside the house approached the door that led from the outside into the second bedroom. They heard hushed voices and footsteps of people exiting the bedroom. Detective Williamon heard Brewer's voice coming from the bathroom, which was adjacent to the second bedroom.

         16. Having received Collier's consent for the officers to enter his home and search for Defendant and Brewer, Detective Falkner summoned the other officers to the front door.

         17. Upon entering the house, the officer saw a male and a female sitting on the couch. They did not know how many other people were in the house. With this concern in mind, Detective Falkner ordered his officers ...

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