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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 20, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Draveetray Lyrell Williams, Defendant.

          Nathan Hoye Nelson, Department of Justice-United States Attorneys Office – Criminal Division, 300 South Fourth Street, Suite 600, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55415, for Plaintiff.

          Andrew M. Irlbeck, Andrew Irlbeck, Lawyer, Chartered, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite W1610, Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55101, for Defendant.



         Before the Court are Defendant Draveetray Lyrell Williams’ Objections (“Objections”) [Doc. No. 44] to Sections IIA, IIB, and III of the August 5, 2019 Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) [Doc. No. 43] filed by Magistrate Judge David T. Schultz. The R&R addressed Williams’ pretrial motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of a search of his car on the ground that police lacked probable cause for the search. The magistrate judge held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on May 28, 2019. In his R&R, the magistrate judge denied Williams’ motion in its entirety. (See R&R [Doc. No. 43] at 18.)

         For the reasons set forth below, Williams’ Objections are overruled, and the R&R is affirmed and adopted in full.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Altercation at Gas Station

         On February 15, 2019, St. Paul Police Officer Nicholas Martell responded to a call that an assault was in progress at a gas station located at the intersection of Rice Street and Maryland Avenue.[1] (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 6–7.) Upon arrival, he was flagged down by a male-later identified as the victim-who informed him that another male had “just pulled a gun on him and left eastbound [on] Maryland in a silver Challenger.” (Id. at 7.) Martell told the victim to remain at the gas station, and spent a few minutes searching for the vehicle nearby. (Id. at 7–8.) When his search turned up nothing, he radioed out a description of the suspect’s vehicle-describing it as a “silver Challenger”-and returned to the gas station.[2] (Martell Body Cam Footage [Gov’t Ex. 3] at 1:05 (victim describing vehicle as a silver Challenger), 1:17 (radioing out description of vehicle as a “silver Challenger” and the firearm involved as a “silver handgun”).)

         Upon returning to the gas station, Officer Martell could not initially locate the victim. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 8–9.) However, he was approached by a citizen who informed the officer that he was a witness to the assault. (Id.; Martell Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 3] at 6:30–13:25 (Martell taking witness statement).) Martell interviewed the witness, who informed him that he had seen a “light-skinned male”-later identified as the victim- exchanging words with a black male at the gas pumps. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 9.) The two men then engaged in a fistfight, at which point eight to ten other black males exited a nearby van and began to assault the victim.[3] (Id. at 9, 19.) The black male that was initially involved with the fist fight then entered a “silver sedan” and left. (Id. at 9.) The witness did not report seeing a firearm at any point during the assault. (Id.; Martell Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 3] at 9:45–10:00.)

         Martell entered the gas station to review any surveillance video that might be available. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 9–10.) While inside, the victim walked into the camera-viewing room, at which point Martell learned that he was an employee at the gas station. (Id. at 10.) The victim provided additional information to Martell:

[The victim] stated he was at the gas station, [when] his wife walked in [and] told him that a male had hit her car with his car door, so he went outside to approach that male and was talking to him when a black male at the gas pumps started talking to him and they were exchanging words and he – the black male at the gas pump . . . racked the slide on the handgun [and] said, Get back in the car before I start shooting [and] I’ll take your life. [The victim] said [the black male then] threw the gun in the car, approached him with his fist up, and they started physically fighting.[4]

(Id. at 10 (emphasis added); Martell Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 3] at 29:40–37:00 (obtaining from victim a full description of the incident and a description of the suspect).) The victim never alleged that the firearm was pointed at him. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 16.) Martell did state that the victim reported throwing a few punches himself during the fist fight, and that Martell never investigated the victim as the possible aggressor or potential robber. (Id.) He also noted that the third-party witness’s description of the fight could be construed as making it sound like the victim assaulted Williams, after which the victim was assaulted by the other men from the van. (Id. at 27.) When asked by defense counsel, Martell reported he was unaware who, if anyone, “won” the fight between the suspect and the victim. (Id. at 18–19.)

         After the fight, the victim stated that he picked up a set of car keys that he thought were his, but in fact belonged to the suspect who had driven away. (Id. at 11.) The victim reported several scrapes and bruises, which Martell documented. (Id. at 14–15.)

         B. Alleyway Stop and Victim Show-Up Procedure

         While Martell was at the gas station, fellow St. Paul Police Officer Benjamin Slater was also responding to the radio call about the fight. (Id. at 30–31.)[5] While en route to the gas station, Slater heard Martell say over the radio that a suspect involved in the fight had left the area in a silver two-door Dodge Challenger traveling eastbound on Maryland Avenue. (Id.) Another officer from St. Paul’s Gang Unit informed Slater over the radio that he knew a man named Draveetray Williams who was “known to drive a two-door Dodge Challenger and . . . carry weapons.” (Id. at 31.) That same Gang Unit officer also informed Slater that Williams had “silver-grilled” (i.e., metallic) teeth. (Id. at 32.)

         Slater searched for a vehicle matching the silver Dodge Challenger description for about 25 to 30 minutes, but did not find it. (Id. at 32–33.) While on his way to the gas station, however, Slater noticed a silver two-door vehicle stuck in the snow at the end of an alleyway attempting to get out onto Maryland Avenue. (Id. at 33.) The alleyway is right next to the gas station where the fight occurred, but cannot be seen from the gas station due to a privacy fence. (Id.)

         Slater pulled up behind the silver vehicle and activated his squad car’s emergency lights.[6] (Id. at 34–35.) After approaching the vehicle on foot, Slater spoke with the driver-who he identified as Draveetray Williams, the Defendant-through the driver’s side window. (Id. at 35–36.) Williams told Slater that he could not turn off his vehicle because he had lost his keys. (Id. at 37.) While speaking with Williams, Slater observed that Williams’ left hand was cut open and bloody. (Id. at 37–38.) Slater also noticed that there was a distinct odor of what he identified as marijuana coming from the vehicle. (Id.; Slater Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 4] at 18:25–18:35.) Slater then contacted Martell to notify him that a vehicle matching the description he had sent out earlier had been stopped, and the driver had blood on his knuckles. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 11–12.) He requested a description of the suspect from Martell, as well as a brief summary of what had happened at the gas station. (Id. at 12, 39.) Martell told Slater the suspect was a black male, 6’2” to 6’3”, 160 to 170 pounds, wearing a gray sweatshirt and gray sweatpants, and had silver teeth. (Id. at 12, 39; Martell Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 3] at 37:00– 37:40.) Martell also informed Slater that there was likely a firearm in the silver Challenger. (Martell Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 3] at 37:40–38:05.) Williams matched the description provided by Martell-including the metal teeth and bloody knuckles-so Slater requested additional police officers to his location. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 39.) When backup arrived, Slater had Williams exit his vehicle, and detained him in his squad car.[7] (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 39–40.)

         After Williams was removed from the vehicle and detained, several other officers who had arrived to provide support to Slater can be heard discussing the smell of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. (Slater Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 4] at 14:52–15:15.) One officer noted that he could see what appeared to be marijuana under the front seat; at that point, Slater and the other officers decided that they were going to search the vehicle. (Id. at 18:30–18:40.)

         Slater then requested a “show-up” procedure, where the victim would be brought to the location of the possible suspect for identification purposes. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 13.) During the procedure, the victim remains in a squad car while the suspect is placed where the victim can see the suspect. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 13.) Before bringing the victim to the alleyway, Martell spoke with the victim, telling him that he was going to bring him to a location where an individual had been stopped and that the person might be the individual who assaulted him. (Id. at 13–14.) After driving the victim to the alleyway where Williams was being detained, but before the show-up procedure occurred, Martell told the victim that “this may or may not be the guy” who had assaulted him, and all he wanted was a “yes” or a “no.” (Martell Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 3] at 46:50–47:22.)

         Meanwhile, Slater informed Williams that he was being detained for a “show-up”[8]procedure related to a fight. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 40–41.) Williams then admitted to Slater that he had been in a fight. (Slater Dash Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 5] at 7:05:50–7:06:05 p.m.) Slater told the magistrate judge, when asked, that he could not remember if he or Williams mentioned a gas station at the time Williams admitted to being in a fight. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 41, 66.) Williams’ explanations of the fight while sitting in the back of Slater’s squad car, however, are consistent with the victim’s description of the fight, albeit cast in a more favorable light to Williams. (See generally Slater Dash Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 5] at 7:05-7:07 p.m.) Around that time, Martell arrived with the victim, so Slater removed Williams from his squad car, walked him down the alleyway away from the silver Challenger, stopped in front of Martell’s patrol car, and had Williams alternate between looking directly at, and facing to either side of, Martell’s squad car. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 13; Slater Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 4] at 19:55–20:50.) The victim identified Williams as the man who had assaulted him and brandished a handgun. (Tr. [Doc. No. 39] at 13–14, 41; Martell Body Camera Footage [Gov’t Ex. 3] at 48:50–49:30.)

         C. Search of ...

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