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United States v. Garmon

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 25, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Terrence Christian Garmon, Defendant.

          Andrew S. Dunne, Benjamin Bejar, Thomas Calhoun-Lopez, United States Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Patrick L. Cotter, Sieben & Cotter, PLLC, for Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of Magistrate Judge Katherine Menendez dated April 9, 2018 [Doc. No. 51]. In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Menendez recommends that (1) Defendant Terrence Garmon's Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained as a Result of Search and Seizure (“Motion to Suppress the Traffic Stop Evidence”) [Doc. No. 22] be denied and that (2) his Amended Motion for Suppression of Evidence Obtained Pursuant to the Execution of Search Warrants [Doc. No. 32] be denied. Garmon objected only to the R&R's findings and conclusions regarding his Motion to Suppress the Traffic Stop Evidence. (See Def.'s Obj. [Doc. No. 52].) The Government filed a response in opposition. (Gov't's Opp'n [Doc. No. 54].) For the reasons set forth below, and based on a full, de novo review of the relevant files and records, including the transcript of the suppression hearing, this Court overrules Garmon's Objection and adopts the R&R in its entirety.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 18, 2017, Garmon was charged by indictment with five counts of bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). (Indictment, Counts 1-5 [Doc. No. 1].) On December 20, 2017 and January 11, 2018, he filed the underlying motions to suppress, and Magistrate Judge Menendez held a hearing on the motions on January 18, 2018. (See Min. Entry for Jan. 18, 2018 Proceedings [Doc. No. 38]; Mot. Hr'g Tr. (“Tr.”) [Doc. No. 41].) At the hearing, the Government called three witnesses-FBI Agent David Walden (“Agent Walden”), (Tr. at 10), St. Paul Police Officer Chris Hanson (“Officer Hanson”), (id. at 36), and St. Paul Police Officer Michael Matsen (“Officer Matsen”), (id. at 81). Below, the Court recites the relevant factual background based on the testimony of these law enforcement officers, and then briefly describes the magistrate judge's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

         A. Factual Background

         During the first few months of 2016, several bank robberies occurred throughout the Twin Cities. (Walden Test., Tr. at 33.) These bank robberies exhibited the same “modus operandi and physical characteristics.” (Id. at 10.) As a “bank robbery coordinator” for the FBI, Agent Walden became involved in the investigation of the robberies. (Id.) In this kind of investigation, Agent Walden works closely with local law enforcement, sharing intelligence information about the crime. (Id. at 11.)

         Pursuant to that information sharing, Agent Walden worked to produce a “bulletin, ” referred to as the “Metro Regional Information Center Information Alert” (“MRIC Alert” or “Alert”), that contained information about the robberies and was distributed to local law enforcement throughout the metro area. (Id. at 11-12, 30.) This MRIC Alert, issued on April 6, 2016, (id. at 30), contained a description and picture of the vehicle used in the robberies as well as numerous surveillance photos of the suspect “as he was entering, participating in, or leaving the bank robberies, ” (id. at 12). The vehicle identified in the Alert was a 1995 or 1996 Lincoln Town Car that was “possibly ivory metallic” in color. (Id. at 14.) The information contained in the Alert about the suspect was that he was a black male, possibly Somali, between 24 to 32 years old, approximately six feet tall, and with a thin build of approximately 140 pounds. (Id. at 34.) According to Agent Walden, although the information contained in MRIC Alerts is “not all encompassing, ” the Alerts contain “a sufficient amount of information that [he] feel[s] officers on the street can utilize to assist in the investigation or the capture or identity of the subject.” (Id. at 12.) The MRIC Alerts are generally sent out by e-mail to “certain points of contact[] within each department” who then widely distribute them to patrol officers, (id. at 35), including during the morning “roll call[s], ” (Hanson Test., Tr. at 38; Matsen Test., Tr. at 82).

         On April 7, 2016, Officer Hanson and his partner Officer Matsen were made aware of the MRIC Alert during their morning roll call. (Hanson Test., Tr. at 38.) Officer Hanson testified that he “looked at” the Alert during this time, (id.), and Officer Matsen testified that he “looked at it several times” and in fact “studied” it, (Matsen Test., Tr. at 82-83). In addition to it being printed out, the Alert was e-mailed to the two officers. (Hanson Test., Tr. at 38-39; Matsen Test., Tr. at 82.)

         After viewing the Alert, Officers Hanson and Matsen began patrolling. While on patrol, they observed a Lincoln that they believed “very similarly exact matched the description of the vehicle in th[e] bulletin.” (Matsen Test., Tr. at 83; see also Hanson Test., Tr. at 39 (“[W]e saw a vehicle that we believe closely resembled the vehicle from the bulletin pass[] in front of us . . . .”).) With Officer Hanson at the wheel, the patrol car changed course to try to get “closer to [the Lincoln] to get a better look.” (Hanson Test., Tr. at 39.) After the Lincoln made a turn, the officers observed that it began to speed away “at a speed greater than the posted speed limit.” (Hanson Test., Tr. at 40; see also Matsen Test., Tr. at 84.) Officer Matsen testified that at that point the officers decided to initiate a traffic stop based on: (1) their belief that the Lincoln matched the description of the vehicle in the Alert; (2) the Lincoln's “speeding behavior” and the officers' perception that it was attempting to evade them; and (3) the fact that this was all occurring in a residential area. (Matsen Test., Tr. at 83.) Officer Matsen further testified that “[a]s [they] were approaching the vehicle to stop it, it abruptly pulled over to the side of the road and stopped.” (Id. at 85.) At that point, the officers pulled up behind the vehicle and activated their lights. (Id. at 85- 86.)

         The officers approached the Lincoln and noticed four occupants. (Id. at 87.) Garmon was seated in the passenger's seat. (Id.) The officers ran a check on Garmon's identification, and their check alerted them that Garmon had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant out of Hennepin County. (Id. at 87-88.) The officers understood that it was within their discretion whether to arrest Garmon for this warrant, and they ultimately decided to arrest him because they believed that he resembled the bank robbery suspect depicted in the MRIC Alert and because they believed that the Lincoln also matched the vehicle involved in the bank robberies. (Id. at 90-91.) The officers frisked Garmon and recovered a black Nokia cell phone that was later searched pursuant to a search warrant. (Id. at 96.)

         Officer Matsen also retrieved items from the Lincoln. Before arresting Garmon, Officer Matsen had observed a black backpack at Garmon's feet in the front seat floorboard of the Lincoln. (Id. at 92-93.) After arresting him, Officer Matsen asked Garmon if the backpack was his and Garmon replied that it was not. (Id.) Officer Matsen nevertheless believed that the backpack belonged to Garmon because of where it had been positioned, so he retrieved it from the Lincoln and searched it. (Id. at 93.) Officer Matsen also retrieved from the Lincoln a black coat that “matched” the one worn by the bank robbery suspect shown in the MRIC Alert. (Id.) Eventually, after attempting to contact the FBI and taking pictures of the vehicle, Officers Hanson and Matsen took Garmon to the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center. (Hanson Test., Tr. at 52.)

         B. ...

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