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United States v. Rollins

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

September 11, 2019





         The Government charged Defendant Tony Dewayne Rollins (Rollins) in a one-count indictment for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e). Pending before the Court are Rollins's motions to suppress the firearm and ammunition discovered during the search as well as his incriminating statements made to police shortly thereafter (motions to suppress). Rollins is represented by counsel. Having carefully considered both motions, the response, the supplemental response, oral argument, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the Court Rollins's motions to suppress will be granted.


         This case arises out of a search and seizure of a residence where Rollins was located on November 8, 2018. In his motions to suppress, Rollins argues (1) it was unlawful for the police to open the door to the residence and (2) Rollins's subsequent statements were made subsequent to his unconstitutional arrest and in violation of Miranda. See ECF Nos. 36, 45.

         On December 18, 2018, the Government filed a one-count indictment against Rollins, ECF No. 1, charging him with violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e) for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. On April 2, 2019, Rollins filed his first motion to suppress, in which he asked this Court to suppress the physical evidence discovered during the allegedly unlawful search and the subsequent statements Rollins made to police. ECF No. 36. On June 4, 2019, the Government filed its response in opposition. ECF No. 44. On June 26, 2019, Rollins filed his second motion to suppress, in which he included additional argument regarding the alleged Miranda violation. ECF No. 45. On July 9, 2019, the Court held a hearing on both motions to suppress and took the matter under advisement pending supplemental briefing from the Government, which the Government submitted on August 22, 2019. ECF No. 54.


         The Court determines the following facts by a preponderance of the evidence. See United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 n.14 (1974) (“[T]he controlling burden of proof at suppression hearings should impose no greater burden than proof by a preponderance of the evidence.” (citation omitted)); United States v. Stevenson, 396 F.3d 538, 541 (4th Cir. 2005) (“In the course of deciding a motion to suppress, the district court may make findings of fact. . . .”).

         On November 8, 2018, Officers Parker and Reynolds of the Myrtle Beach Police Department responded to an “open-line” 911 call from a residence located at 1400 Fischer Drive, Apartment 102-C, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. ECF No. 54 at 2. An “open-line” 911 call is one in which the caller fails to respond when the dispatcher answers the call, but the call remains open and the dispatcher can hear noise in the room or area. Transcript at 6. During the call, dispatch heard a male and female in the background, and heard the female say, “Get out of my house” several times. Id.

         Officers Parker and Reynolds arrived at the residence several minutes after the 911 call and upon approaching the front door, they observed it was “ajar”. Id. at 28. At the suppression hearing, Parker testified “ajar” meant “[the door] was not latched” but she and Reynolds could not see into the residence as they approached. Id. at 28, 48. Reynolds knocked on the door, waited approximately 14 seconds, and knocked again. Reynolds Body Worn Camera (BWC) at 20:29:14. According to Reynolds, he was “trying to…make sure there [was] no one inside the [apartment] that could still be in danger…I know from earlier that there [was] a female inside and she was telling someone to get out. And I want[ed] to make sure that whoever that was[, ] was not still in there and whoever the female was[, ] [was] not injured.” Transcript at 39-40.

         When Reynolds knocked a second time, he knocked with such force he opened the door to the apartment at the same time Ms. Tameka Johnson (Johnson) appeared. Reynolds BWC at 20:29:29. As Johnson appeared, Reynolds announced it was the police and Johnson almost immediately said, “Everything okay, I guess.” Id. at 20:29:39. The officers asked her to come outside and talk to them and asked if they could enter the residence. Id. at 20:29:45. Johnson denied both officers' requests to enter the residence. Transcript at 29, 47. Parker, who began talking to Johnson when she came out of the residence, testified Johnson was not bruised, bloody, or trembling in fear. Id. at 30. Parker testified that at this point, she did not know if Johnson was the instigator or the victim, or anything else about what happened. Id. Parker also testified that as of this time, both officers had no reason to suspect any firearm was involved in the incident. Id. at 31.

         While Parker was speaking to Johnson, Reynolds was still standing at the door of the residence. As the door was closing under its own power following his forceful second knock, Reynolds put his boot in the doorjamb to keep the door open and crossed the threshold into the residence. Parker BWC at 02:10:40-02:11:10. According to Reynolds, he “open[ed] the door…[and] shine[d] [his flashlight] inside” so that he could see into the residence. Transcript at 51. After Reynolds shined his flashlight into the residence, he observed a bullet laying on the floor of the living room. Parker BWC at 02:11:44. Rollins then came to the door and followed Reynolds's instruction to walk outside.

         After Rollins came outside, Parker told Johnson to show her where the gun was. Parker BWC at 02:12:40. Parker then followed Johnson to a bedroom, where Johnson located a firearm in the dresser. Id. at 02:13:12. At no point did either officer receive consent to enter the residence after Johnson had initially told them they could not enter. Reynolds, who was outside with Rollins while Parker was attempting to locate the gun, asked Rollins to tell him the location of the gun. Rollins replied, “What gun? I ain't got no gun. What gun? I don't know nothing about no gun.” Reynolds BWC at 20:32:40.

         After the gun was discovered, Rollins told Reynolds, “It wasn't cocked. She must have cocked it.” Reynolds BWC 20:37:44. A few moments later, while handcuffed and seated on the ground outside of the residence, Rollins told the ...

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