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United States v. Bruce

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

December 5, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff
v.
Toddrey Willie Bruce, Defendant

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS PHYSICAL EVIDENCE AND STATEMENTS

          Robert N. Scola, Jr., United States District Judge.

         Defendant Toddrey Willie Bruce is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence and Statements (ECF No. 17). The Defendant argues that the firearm and ammunition recovered from the scene of his arrest and the subsequent statements that he made while in custody should be suppressed because he was illegally seized without a warrant.

         The Court held an evidentiary hearing on the Defendant's motion on December 1, 2017. At the hearing, the Court heard the testimony of Government witnesses David Espinosa and Tony Belle, Jr., both of whom are officers with the Miami-Dade Police Department. The Court also reviewed a video of the officers' encounter with the Defendant that was recorded by Espinosa's body camera, as well as an audio recording of the 911 call to which Espinosa and Belle were responding when they encountered the Defendant. After considering the credible evidence and testimony and the relevant legal authorities, and for the reasons more particularly set forth below, the motion to suppress is denied (ECF No. 17).

         1. Testimony

         A. David Espinosa

         Espinosa has been employed for just over one year as a uniformed road patrol officer for the Miami-Dade Police Department. He previously served four years in the U.S. Military and served as a military police officer. As a police officer, he has responded to emergency calls hundreds of times and his primary concerns when responding to such calls are the safety of the community and officer safety.

         On March 27, 2017 in the early morning hours, he responded to a dispatch which was the result of a 911 call. The caller said there was a black male with a firearm engaged in an argument and the black male was standing next to a white car in the driveway.

         Espinosa is assigned to the Cutler Ridge area of Miami-Dade County. That night he was patrolling the Perrine area, which is a relatively small area within Cutler Ridge. Perrine is a high-crime area. Espinosa receives approximately 30 calls per night in the Cutler Ridge area and 15 of those calls - a disproportionate number - are from Perrine.

         Espinosa arrived at the address provided by dispatch at 3:28 a.m., within a few minutes of the 911 call, and saw a white car with the interior light on and two persons inside the vehicle. Espinosa had his firearm withdrawn as a result of the nature of the call. Espinosa first approached the driver's side of the car and the driver complied with commands and exited the vehicle.

         Espinosa and Office Price then approached the Defendant on the passenger side of the car, and Espinosa activated his body camera. He had forgotten to turn on the body camera when he approached the driver's side of the car. The Defendant had already exited the car and had his hands up. Espinosa and Price explained that they were there due to a report of a man with a gun. They ordered the Defendant to put his hands on the vehicle so a pat-down could be conducted, but the Defendant refused. When Espinosa and Price tried to put the Defendant against the vehicle, the Defendant struggled and tried to push his way through the officers to flee. During the struggle, now at the rear of the vehicle, a firearm fell out of his waistband onto the ground. Espinosa's body camera fell to the ground during the struggle and stopped recording. The entire encounter with the Defendant, from the approach to the struggle, took approximately 20 seconds.

         The firearm was cleared to prevent accidental discharge. The Defendant's criminal history was run and it was learned that he was a convicted felon.

         B. Tony Belle, Jr.

         Belle has been a police officer with the Miami Dade Police Department for over one year. He is presently a detective but was a patrol officer in March 2017. While a patrol officer, he responded to hundreds of 911 calls. His primary concerns when responding to such calls are safety and determining how to react. When there is a call relating to a firearm, officer safety and the safety of others is a concern.

         On March 27, 2017, in the early morning hours, he received a dispatch referencing two males standing next to a white car in front of a house arguing and one was armed with a firearm. Belle believes it was a white Nissan. Belle arrived at the address four to five ...


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