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United States v. Lewis

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

February 12, 2018

United States of America,
Roderick Delon Lewis, Defendant.


          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a motion to suppress [ECF No. 25] filed by Defendant Roderick Delon Lewis. A hearing was held on Defendant's motion to suppress on January 19, 2018. After hearing arguments of the lawyers and testimony of the witnesses, the Court took the matter under advisement. For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendant's [ECF No. 25] motion to suppress.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The pending motion to suppress involves the encounter between Sergeant Townsend and Defendant Lewis on June 12, 2017. Defendant Lewis seeks to suppress the firearm discovered following that encounter.

         On the morning of June 12, 2017, Sergeant Townsend of the Dillon Police Department learned of an outstanding warrant for a person with the last name "Lewis." While on patrol later that day, Sergeant Townsend encountered the Defendant, whose last name is "Lewis." Sergeant Townsend was aware of Roderick Lewis through his reputation as a "neighborhood bully" and alleged involvement in drug activity. However, other than the common last name of "Lewis, " Sergeant Townsend could not state any other facts to link Lewis to the outstanding warrant he learned of that morning.[1]

         On June 12, 2017, Sergeant Townsend first spotted Defendant Lewis walking down the street while Sergeant Townsend was gassing up his police vehicle at the city gas pump. Lewis was walking to his residence from his mother's house. Sergeant Townsend radioed dispatch to determine whether Lewis was the "Lewis" who had the outstanding warrant. Before receiving a response from dispatch, Sergeant Townsend finished filling up his car with gas and proceeded to Lewis's location.

         According to Sergeant Townsend's version of the initial encounter, by the time Sergeant Townsend reached Lewis, Lewis was almost to his residence. Upon reaching Lewis's location, Sergeant Townsend pulled his car up beside Lewis and said "Hey man, let me talk to you for a minute." As Sergeant Townsend exited his patrol vehicle, he told Defendant Lewis to "come here." Defendant Lewis asked, "for what?, " and began walking toward Sergeant Townsend. Sergeant Townsend responded that he needed to see Lewis's identification because they had a warrant on a "Lewis" subject. Immediately after Sergeant Townsend mentioned a possible warrant on a Lewis subject, Defendant Lewis turned and fled.

         Defendant Lewis's version of the initial encounter differs slightly. Lewis testified that he was walking towards his home and was approximately three feet away from his steps when Sergeant Townsend pulled up in the yard, got out of the vehicle, and told Lewis to turn around and put his hands behind his back, and that he was under arrest. Lewis testified that Sergeant Townsend never asked for Id. Lewis asked Sergeant Townsend what he was being arrested for and Sergeant Townsend responded by ordering Lewis to "turn around" and put his hands behind his back. Lewis then turned around to walk in his front door. Sergeant Townsend reached for Lewis and Lewis pulled away and ran. Lewis testified that when Sergeant Townsend first approached him, Lewis believed that he could just walk away.

         Sergeant Townsend chased after Defendant Lewis, through Lewis's yard, from one side of the house to the other. Sergeant Townsend caught Defendant Lewis on the other side of the house when Lewis unsuccessfully attempted to jump a chain link fence. Sergeant Townsend wrestled with Lewis in an attempt to detain him. As they struggled, a black object, which ended up being a firearm, fell to the ground.

         Sergeant Townsend continued to struggle to detain Defendant Lewis for a short time until Lewis stopped fighting, at which point Sergeant Townsend detained him. A passing state trooper stopped to help but Sergeant Townsend had detained Defendant Lewis by that point. Other officers then arrived on the scene.

         After detaining Defendant Lewis, Sergeant Townsend discovered that the outstanding warrant was for Defendant Lewis's brother, Damian Lewis. Although Defendant Lewis had an outstanding warrant for pointing and presenting a firearm, there was no testimony that Sergeant Townsend was aware of that particular warrant at the time of Lewis's arrest and detention.

         On September 26, 2017, Defendant was indicted in a one count indictment for felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e).


         Lewis argues the firearm should be suppressed because Sergeant Townsend did not possess reasonable suspicion to stop and detain Lewis as ...

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