United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE EDMOND E. CHANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
2018, two Chicago Police Department officers discovered a
concealed firearm on Leamon Smith during a routine traffic
stop. R. 41, Def.'s Post-Hearing Br. at 1. Smith now moves
to suppress evidence of the firearm and the statements that
he made during the traffic stop because (1) the officers'
pat-downs were unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment; (2)
Smith was arrested without probable cause; and (3) the
traffic stop transformed into a custodial interrogation but
the officers failed to give Smith any Miranda
warnings. Id. at 2. The Court held a suppression
hearing in March 2019, after which the parties filed
supplemental briefing. For the reasons discussed below,
Smith's motion to suppress is denied as to the firearm
but granted as to some of the statements he made during the
18, 2018, around 9:00 p.m., Smith and Dalon Naylor were
driving in a blue Lexus near the intersection of Chicago
Avenue and St. Lawrence Avenue in Chicago. R. 22, Mot.
Suppress at 1; R. 31, Gov't's Resp. at 2. Smith was
sitting in the front passenger seat. Mot. Suppress at 1. The
two men were pulled over by Chicago Police Officers Steven
Holden and Dimar Vasquez for running a red light. Def.'s
Post-Hearing Br. at 3. Holden and Vasquez were in an unmarked
tactical unit vehicle and both turned on their body cameras
as soon as they initiated the traffic stop. Id. See
also R. 40, Supp. Hearing Tr. at 7:10-20; 65:18-23. Once
outside, Holden approached the passenger side of the Lexus
while Vasquez walked over to the driver's side.
Id. at 9:20-24.
suppression hearing, Holden testified that he “smelled
the odor of fresh cannabis” as he approached the car,
but that he could not tell if the smell was coming from the
driver or the passenger. Supp. Hearing Tr. at 10:5-13. Holden
did not mention the smell of cannabis during his interaction
with Smith, nor did he make a note of it in his police
report. Id. at 36:1-37:3. Holden also testified that
Smith “appeared to be extremely nervous” and
“was breathing heavy.” Id. at 11:7-8. In
the video from Holden's body camera, he tells Smith that
he was “shaking like a leaf, ” Holden Video at
1:08-1:12, and later testified that Smith's hands were
trembling when Smith handed Holden an identification card,
Supp. Hearing Tr. at 11:10-15. Holden explained that this was
noteworthy because traffic stops typically only implicate the
driver, not the passenger. Id. at 11:20-12:1.
next asked Smith to get out of the car and directed Smith
towards the back of the car. Supp. Hearing Tr. at 12:16-13:1.
At the suppression hearing, Holden testified that he noticed
Smith was walking with a slight limp, “like a side to
side” type of walk. Id. at 13:4-10. In the
video, Holden does not immediately comment on Smith's
walk or gait. Holden Video at 2:09-2:15. But he later
testified that Smith's odd way of walking made Holden
think that Smith was hiding something in his waistband or
crotch area. Supp. Hearing Tr. at 13:13-16. Once
Smith reached the back of the car, he leaned his pelvis
against the trunk of the car, prompting Holden to twice ask
him to take half a step away from the car. Id. at
14:5-8; Holden Video at 2:25.
then performed a pat-down search of Smith. Supp. Hearing Tr.
at 15:9-11. He focused on what he called “hot spots,
” including Smith's waistband, his front pockets,
and his lower leg. Id. at 15:12-15; Holden Video at
2:30-2:45. He did not search Smith's groin area.
Id. Holden did not find any contraband during this
search. Supp. Hearing Tr. at 16:5-6. Nonetheless, he placed
Smith in handcuffs and told him he was just being detained.
Holden Video at 2:55-3:00. Holden then told Smith that
“if it's a little loud, we can work with it,
” which, according to Holden, meant that if Smith was
hiding some “loud”-a street term for cannabis-he
should concede that now because possession of marijuana is
just a ticket-type offense that could have been dealt with
easily and quickly. Supp. Hearing Tr. at 17:2-7. Smith
responded that he did not have any. Id. at 17:15-17.
Holden continued to question Smith about what he was hiding,
but Smith insisted that he had “really nothing.”
Holden Video at 3:15- 3:35. Eventually, Holden asked Smith,
“we're going to do this the hard way bro?”
Id. at 3:35-3:45. Holden insisted at the suppression
hearing that he was not threatening Smith when he said this.
Supp. Hearing Tr. at 18:2-11.
then said to Holden, “it ain't on me, ” which
Holden took as evidence that Smith was in possession of
something he was trying to conceal. Holden Video at
3:47-3:53; Supp. Hearing Tr. at 18:20-24. Holden reminded
Smith that “honesty goes a long way” with him and
again asked Smith what he was hiding. Holden Video at
3:53-4:00. At that point, Smith began to bargain with Holden,
asking if Holden was willing to “help him out”
and explaining that he “could do anything to make
something happen.” Id. at 4:02-4:22. Holden
understood this to be a proposition for a quid pro
quo type of exchange, meaning if Smith handed over
whatever it was that he was hiding, Smith then could help
Holden in some way, like giving up a narcotic seller, to
avoid a charge for whatever Smith was hiding. Supp. Hearing
Tr. at 19:3-18.
next walked back to his police car in order to conduct a name
check in the law-enforcement database on both Smith and
Naylor. Supp. Hearing Tr. at 20:4-14. He also asked Smith and
Naylor to walk from the back of the Lexus to the front of the
police car so the he could have a direct view of them from
inside his car. Id. at 19:22-20:3. Holden later
testified that Smith “had that side to side walk, as if
he was holding something in his crotch area and he was trying
to walk around it, or hold it in place.” Id.
at 21:11-13. Holden's body camera did not pick up a
direct view of Smith's walk from one car to the other,
but it can be seen for a second on the recording from Officer
Vasquez's body camera. Vasquez Video at 4:13-4:19. Holden
testified at the suppression hearing that Vasquez's
body-camera video showed Smith walking “almost [with] a
waddle to the side, and then straight forward.” Supp.
Hearing Tr. at 21:22-23.
Holden finished running his name check on Smith and Naylor,
Holden approached Smith again and continued to question Smith
about what he was hiding. Holden Video at 6:15-6:27. Smith
was still standing at the front of the police car, where he
was (once again) pressing his pelvis against the hood of the
car. Id. at 6:19-6:25. According to Holden, this
suggested that Smith was “trying to hold something in
place in his crotch area.” Supp. Hearing Tr. at
22:11-12. Holden next asked Smith to walk from the front of
the police car back to the Lexus and again asked Smith what
he was hiding. Holden Video at 6:27-6:40. Once Smith reached
the Lexus, he again pressed his pelvis up against the trunk
in a stance similar to the one he took against the police
car. Id. Holden testified that he did not direct
Smith into this position. Supp. Hearing Tr. at 23:6-9. Holden
commented on Smith's stance-leaning his pelvis against
the Lexus-which prompted Smith to take a step away from the
Lexus. Holden Video at 6:35-6:42. Just a second later,
though, Smith returned to the same stance, pressing his body
against the back of the car. Id. at 6:43.
then offered to uncuff one of Smith's hands so that Smith
could retrieve whatever it was he was hiding. Holden Video at
6:46-6:52. Holden explained that he believed Smith was hiding
either narcotics or a weapon, but that he offered to let him
grab the object himself because he thought he was building a
rapport with Smith. Supp. Hearing Tr. at 24:8-25. Smith
responded that he did not have anything on him. Holden Video
at 6:52-6:54. The two men continued to engage in a back and
forth until Holden eventually again said, “I don't
wanna do it the hard way, or the long way.”
Id. at 7:10-7:14. Holden testified again that he did
not mean this statement to be a threat. Supp. Hearing Tr. at
25:15-23. Smith also told Holden that he needed his help
because other individuals were “beating up” his
friends on the corner of 54th and Indiana in
Chicago. Holden Video at 7:30-8:10. Holden responded that he
did not believe the alleged violence was the reason Smith was
acting nervous. Id. at 8:12-8:25; see also
Supp. Hearing Tr. at 26:5-27:7. Throughout this exchange,
Smith kept his pelvis pressed against the trunk of the Lexus.
Holden Video at 6:44-8:45.
six-and-a-half minutes after the first pat-down, Holden
conducted a second pat-down of Smith. Holden Video at
8:50-9:45. He later described his search as focusing on
Smith's legs and said that he “jiggled the pants
leg to almost assist [the concealed object] to fall down the
leg … still going back up the leg to make sure nothing
was stuck, stopping at the seam of the pants, and doing the
same thing on the other leg.” Supp. Hearing Tr. at
28:1-5. Holden did not touch Smith's groin area during
this search and again Holden recovered nothing. Id.
at 28:9-15. Holden then directed Smith to walk back over to
the front of the police car. Holden Video at 9:45-9:52.
Holden later testified that Smith hesitated before doing so,
which raised Holden's suspicions because it seemed to him
like Smith did not want to move. Supp. Hearing Tr. at
28:19-29:6. When Smith walked from the Lexus to the police
car, Holden noticed that he walked with an “exaggerated
limp… as if he was almost injured.” Id.
at 29:7-12. Indeed, Holden asked Smith if he was injured, and
Smith responded that he had been in a car accident and
injured his right leg. Id. at 29:15-30:-7.
then conducted a third and final pat-down. Holden Video at
10:02-10:10. He focused on Smith's right side because
Smith seemed to be favoring that side and Smith had claimed
to have had injured that leg. Supp. Hearing Tr. at 30:14-17.
Holden described pulling Smith's pants toward him and
feeling up into Smith's crotch area, where he felt a hard
metal object. Id. at 30:18-23. After questioning
Smith about the hard metal object, he eventually recovered a
handgun from inside Smith's underwear. Holden Video at
10:10-11:40. Holden testified that he did not reach into
Smith's underwear earlier because he “didn't
have enough evidence at the time, and I couldn't violate
his rights with just going in his pants, so I had to connect
the dots to make sure I had enough to go by at the
time.” Supp. Hearing Tr. at 33:22-25. The entire
traffic stop lasted around 11 minutes. Id. at
33:7-10. Smith has been charged with possession of a firearm
by a felon under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Mot. Suppress at