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United States v. Hampton

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 18, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT ODSOR HAMPTON III, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HOLLY L. TEETER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Robert Odsor Hampton III, who is charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited person, moves to suppress the ammunition found in his pocket and the gun found in the vehicle in which he was riding. Although he concedes the validity of the initial traffic stop, he contends law enforcement violated his Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully extending the scope of the traffic stop and unlawfully arresting him. Doc. 13. Because law enforcement did not violate Mr. Hampton's Fourth Amendment rights, the Court denies his motion.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         At approximately 10:45 p.m. on July 12, 2018, Topeka Police Department (“TPD”) Officers Christian Harsha and Joshua Fowler responded to the scene of a domestic complaint. Upon their arrival, Officers Harsha and Fowler took statements from Susan Dunn, who placed the 911 call, and the alleged victim, Michelle Hodgson. Ms. Hodgson stated that her ex-boyfriend, Mr. Hampton, had attempted to run her over in a car and had also pointed a gun at her. She identified the vehicle involved as a black Dodge Charger with a police-style spotlight on the driver side door. Ms. Dunn's statement was consistent with Ms. Hodgson's account of the incident. After taking the statements-and performing a database search that revealed Mr. Hampton's prior booking photos and criminal history-Officer Harsha cleared the call at approximately 11:35 p.m.

         Approximately one minute later and three miles from the reported assault, TPD Officer Brady Qualls-unaware of the allegations made by Ms. Hodgson and Ms. Dunn-stopped a black Dodge Charger for expired registration. Like the vehicle allegedly involved in the earlier domestic assault, the car stopped by Officer Qualls had a police-style spotlight on the driver side door. Officer Qualls approached the vehicle and asked the two occupants for identification. The driver did not have a driver's license and instead produced a Hawaiian identification card bearing the name Betsy Droge. The passenger in the vehicle-a male sitting in the front passenger seat-stated he did not have any identification. Officer Qualls asked for his name and date of birth, and the passenger provided the name “Joshua Haggerty” and a corresponding birthdate. Officer Qualls also explained the reason for the stop and asked Ms. Droge if she was the owner of the car. She responded that she was not and that the car belonged to her mother, who had recently passed away.

         Meanwhile, Officer Harsha, who had just finished clearing the earlier assault call, heard over the radio that Officer Qualls had stopped a black Charger. Officer Harsha promptly radioed TPD Officer Christopher Janes-who had responded to the scene of the stop to back up Officer Qualls-to inquire whether the vehicle had a police-style spotlight. Officer Janes replied that it did. Noting it was unusual for a civilian car to have a police-style spotlight-and given that the car stopped by Officer Qualls was identical in make, model, and color to the car involved in the alleged assault and was also stopped close in both proximity and time-Officer Harsha warned Officer Janes that the occupant could be armed and then headed toward the scene of the stop.

         After finishing the radio conversation with Officer Harsha, Officer Janes approached the Charger, where Officer Qualls was still standing at the driver side window. Officer Janes walked toward the passenger side window and asked the passenger for his name and identification. Again, the man identified himself as Joshua Haggerty. The passenger was sweating profusely, breathing heavily, and avoiding eye contact, which, based on Officer Janes's training, indicated that he might attack or attempt to flee. Given this behavior and his conversation with Officer Harsha, Officer Janes signaled to Officer Qualls that the man could be armed. Officer Qualls then returned to his patrol car to run a warrant search on Ms. Droge and the passenger while Officer Janes remained at the passenger side window of the Charger.

         At this point, Officer Harsha arrived on the scene and approached Officer Qualls. Officer Harsha told Officer Qualls he thought the male passenger could be the suspect in the earlier domestic assault. Officer Harsha then asked Officer Qualls to pull the Social Security number for Joshua Haggerty and, after acquiring the number, approached the passenger side window and asked the man for the last four digits of his Social Security number. After the passenger responded that he did not remember the numbers, Officer Harsha-who now felt certain the man was lying about his identity-asked him to step out of the vehicle. As Officer Harsha reached through the car window to unlock the passenger door, however, he noticed the passenger reach toward his waistband. Unsure if he was reaching for a weapon or attempting to unbuckle his seatbelt, Officer Harsha instructed the man not to reach for anything and then reached in to help him undo the seatbelt. With Officer Janes's help, Officer Harsha assisted the passenger from the vehicle and, at this point, Officer Harsha immediately recognized him as the suspect from the earlier assault- Mr. Hampton.

         Officer Harsha attempted to place Mr. Hampton's hands behind his back to handcuff him, but Mr. Hampton resisted. With the assistance of the other officers on the scene, Officer Harsha pushed Mr. Hampton against an adjacent wall and successfully secured him. While Officer Harsha looked on, Officer Janes searched Mr. Hampton's person. During the search, Officer Janes noticed that Mr. Hampton was wearing an empty holster and, in Mr. Hampton's pockets, Officer Janes found four handgun magazines. Both Officers Harsha and Janes testified that the presence of the holster-without a gun-indicated there could be a gun at the scene.

         Officer Harsha subsequently walked to the driver side window to speak with Ms. Droge. At this point, Mr. Hampton-who was still standing with Officers Qualls, Janes, and Fowler- broke free and dove headfirst into the Charger's open passenger door, yelling at Ms. Droge (who was still sitting in the driver's seat) to accelerate. Officer Harsha testified that, as Mr. Hampton dove into the car, he witnessed him again reach toward the vehicle's center console. At this point, Officer Harsha was confident the missing gun was located in the center console and feared that, were Mr. Hampton to access that area, the officers on the scene could be at risk.

         To gain control of Mr. Hampton, Officer Janes deployed a two-second burst of OC spray into Mr. Hampton's eyes. Officer Janes was then able to pull Mr. Hampton out of the vehicle and restrain him. Once Mr. Hampton was secure, Officer Harsha searched the vehicle. Officer Harsha first checked the glove box. Officer Harsha next searched the center console, where he found a black Taurus, model 1911, .45 caliber pistol. Officer Harsha also ran a warrant search for Mr. Hampton and discovered he had two felony warrants. A warrant search was also conducted for Ms. Droge, revealing she likewise had an outstanding warrant and did not have a valid Kansas driver's license. That warrant check was completed at approximately 11:52 p.m. The vehicle was subsequently seized and impounded.

         Based on the evidence collected, a grand jury indicted Mr. Hampton on September 19, 2018, for possession of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited person in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Doc. 1. Mr. Hampton subsequently moved to suppress the gun and ammunition. Doc. 13.

         II. STANDARD

         The Fourth Amendment guarantees “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV; see also Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 655-56 (1961) (incorporating the Fourth Amendment's protections against the states through the Fourteenth Amendment). Evidence obtained in violation of these rights is subject ...


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