United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Wood, United States District Judge.
Terrance Hammonds (“Hammonds”) has been charged
along with five co-defendants in a twenty-two count
Superseding Indictment for his role in an alleged
drug-trafficking conspiracy. Hammonds has been charged in two
of the counts: Count One, for conspiring to possess with
intent to distribute and distribute more than one kilogram of
a mixture containing heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
846; and Count Sixteen, for possessing with intent to
distribute a quantity of a mixture and substance containing
heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Hammonds
was arrested after police officers discovered heroin in his
possession during what the Government describes as a
consensual encounter. Hammonds has moved to suppress the
heroin and any other evidence obtained as a result of his
arrest. (Dkt. No. 213.) For the reasons explained below, the
Court grants the motion.
Court held an evidentiary hearing regarding the instant
motion on February 26, 2019. At the hearing, two Chicago
Police Department officers, Detective Brian Leahy and Officer
Roberto Del Cid, testified. The Government also introduced
into evidence a satellite map of the area where Officer Del
Cid stopped Hammonds. The following summarizes the evidence
adduced at the hearing.
evening of Friday, March 3, 2017, Detective Leahy was on
patrol in an unmarked squad car near the intersection of
Division Street and Cicero Avenue on the west side of the
City of Chicago when he observed a red Nissan Altima exiting
an alley onto Division Street. Detective Leahy recognized the
driver of the vehicle as Charles Pinkins, an individual
Detective Leahy believed to be the leader and heroin supplier
of the Big Money Family, a faction of the Conservative Vice
Lords street gang. Detective Leahy and Officer Del Cid
believed that Pinkins used a house located a few hundred feet
down the alley at 4827 West Crystal Street as a base for
heroin distribution. Approximately one month earlier,
Hammonds's brother, Terrell Hammonds, had been arrested
by other members of the officers' investigative team
after they observed Terrell Hammonds leaving the house and
engaging in a hand-to-hand transaction with an individual
later stopped with heroin. The arresting officers also found
heroin on Terrell Hammonds's person at the time of his
arrest. Detective Leahy and Officer Del Cid believed that
both Terrell Hammonds and Terrance Hammonds lived at 4827
West Crystal Street.
Leahy sent a radio message to Officers Del Cid and Scott
Korhonen, who were also working on the same investigation
that night, notifying them where he had observed Pinkins.
Officers Del Cid and Korhonen drove in that direction in an
unmarked Ford Explorer. While both officers were in plain
clothes, they also wore police vests that displayed a star
and the words “Chicago Police, ” and they had
their firearms visible at their side in their holsters. While
stopped at a red light at the intersection, the officers
observed two individuals walking away from each other at the
mouth of the alley from Cicero Avenue onto Division Street.
After the light changed, the officers drove in the direction
of one of the individuals, who was walking on the sidewalk
next to a gas station. As the officers' car passed the
individual, Officer Del Cid recognized him as Hammonds.
Officer Del Cid observed Hammonds, after seeing the officers,
remove an object from his pocket and place it in his mouth.
Korhonen, who was driving, turned into the gas station in
front of Hammonds, stopping the car about fifteen feet away
from him. Officer Del Cid left the vehicle while Officer
Korhonen remained behind. Approaching Hammonds, Officer Del
Cid ordered Hammonds to stop and began asking him questions.
Hammonds was unable to respond as he attempted to swallow an
object in his mouth. Officer Del Cid then told Hammonds to
spit out the object in his mouth. While Officer Del Cid was
attempting to question Hammonds, Officer Korhonen parked the
car and walked over. He also told Hammonds to spit out what
was in his mouth. Hammonds finally spat out the item in
question, which Officer Del Cid immediately recognized as a
bag of heroin.
one minute after Detective Leahy placed the original radio
call, he returned to find Officers Del Cid and Korhonen with
Hammonds in the parking lot of the gas station. The officers
told Detective Leahy they had recovered heroin from Hammonds.
Hammonds was then arrested and transported to the police
Superseding Indictment charges Hammonds with conspiring to
possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of a
mixture and substance containing heroin (Count One) and
possession with intent to distribute a mixture or substance
containing of heroin (Count Sixteen). Hammonds has moved to
suppress the evidence obtained from what he claims was an
illegal search and seizure on March 3, 2017. The Government,
for its part, contends that the encounter between Hammonds
and Officers Del Cid and Korhonen was consensual or, in the
alternative, that it was an investigatory stop supported by
The Encounter Was Non-Consensual
Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable
searches and seizures. If law enforcement violates the Fourth
Amendment to obtain evidence, that evidence cannot be used
against the subject of the illegal search and seizure.
United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 347 (1974).
Hammonds asserts that the officers illegally seized him when
they stopped and questioned him; the Government counters that
the interaction was consensual, or in the alternative, that
the interaction was an investigative stop justified by the
officers' reasonable suspicion that Hammonds had engaged
in drug trafficking.
Seventh Circuit recognizes three types of police-citizen
encounters: a consensual encounter, an investigatory stop,
and an arrest. A consensual encounter between a private
citizen and a police officer is not a seizure because it
involves no restraint on liberty; therefore, when such an
encounter occurs, “the degree of suspicion required [by
the officer] is zero.” United States v.
Nobles, 69 F.3d 172, 180 (7th Cir. 1995). Approaching a
person to ask a question he is free to refuse to answer, for
instance, involves such a limited curtailment of liberty that
no suspicion is required. United States v. Burton,
441 F.3d 509, 511 (7th Cir. 2006). But an encounter is
consensual only if “a reasonable person would feel free
to disregard the police and go about his business.”
United States v. Yusuff, 96 F.3d 982, 985 (7th Cir.
1996) (citing California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621,
628 (1991)); see also Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S.
429, 437 (1991). “[T]he crucial test is whether, taking
in to account all of the circumstances surrounding the
encounter, the police conduct would have communicated to a
reasonable person that he was not at liberty to ignore the
police presence and go about his business.” Florida
v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 437 (1991) (internal quotation
marks omitted). The second type of encounter is an
investigatory or Terry stop. An “officer may
conduct a brief, non-intrusive detention of a person if the
officer has specific and articulable facts sufficient to give
rise to a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed or
is committing a crime.” United States v.
Scheets, 188 F.3d 829, 837 (7th Cir. 1999). The third
type of encounter is an arrest, which “is characterized
by highly intrusive or lengthy search or detention.”
United States v. Black, 675 F.2d 129, 133 (7th Cir.
1982). An arrest must be based on probable cause, which
exists when facts known to the officer at the time of the
arrest are enough for a reasonably cautious person to believe
that the arrestee has committed or is committing a crime.
the Government contends that the encounter between the
officers and Hammonds was a consensual one. But there is a
difference between a non-coercive field interview and the
interaction that took place between the officers and
Hammonds. The officers did not simply walk up to Hammonds on
the sidewalk to see if he was willing to answer a few
questions. Rather, Officer Korhonen turned the officers'
vehicle into Hammonds's path. While Officer Del Cid
testified that Hammonds was not actually blocked by the
officers because he could have turned around and walked the
other direction, the Court doubts a reasonable person in
Hammonds's position would have believed that he could
have ended the encounter in that manner taking into account
the surrounding circumstances. According to the testimony at
the evidentiary hearing, immediately after the officers
stopped their car, Officer Del Cid stepped out, instructed
Hammonds to stop, and immediately began asking him a series
of questions. Officer Del Cid repeatedly told ...