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United States v. Morris

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

February 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiffs,
v.
JERON MORRIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Laurie Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Findings and Recommendation, ECF No. 78, issued by Magistrate Judge Thomas D. Thalken recommending that the Motion to Suppress, ECF No. 46, filed by the Defendant, Jeron Morris (“Defendant”), be denied. Defendant filed an Objection to the Findings and Recommendation and a brief in support, ECF Nos. 84 and 85, as allowed by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and NECrimR 59.2(a). The Government responded to Defendant's Objection, ECF No. 88, directing the Court to its previous briefing on the matter. For the reasons set forth below, the Findings and Recommendation will be adopted, and the Motion to Suppress will be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant is charged in the Indictment, ECF No. 1, along with co-defendant Preston Pope (“Pope”). Defendant is charged with affecting interstate commerce by means of robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 1951 (Count I); brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 924(c) (Count II); bank robbery by force, violence, and intimidation in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 2113(a) (Count III); brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 924(c) (Count IV); and possession of a weapon after having been convicted of a felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (Count VI).

         Defendant does not object to the Magistrate Judge's findings of fact and the Court adopts and incorporates those findings into this Memorandum and Order. The Court provides the following by way of summary:

         On August 11, 2015, at around 12:45 a.m., two black males arrived in a white Buick and robbed the Walgreens located at 3001 Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska, at gunpoint. Later, on August 11, 2015, at around 5:45 p.m., two males robbed a U.S. Bank located inside the No Frills grocery store at 4240 South 50th Street in Omaha. One of the suspects ordered a bank teller to place money into a bag, while the other suspect pointed a gun at the tellers and customers in the bank. Following the robbery, the two suspects drove away in a white Buick LeSabre.

         The white Buick LeSabre was later found and witnesses told law enforcement they observed two black males get out of the white Buick and enter a green SUV or minivan. On August 14, 2015, Omaha Police Department (“OPD”) officers located a green minivan driven by Pope who was subsequently arrested and detained. Following Pope's arrest, OPD officers searched the house of Pope's half-brother and found evidence of a firearm and located a white Ford Expedition with paper license plates parked in the driveway. One of the bait bills from the U.S. Bank robbery was used in the purchase of the Ford Expedition.

         OPD developed Defendant as the other suspect in the robberies and issued a “locate bulletin” for Defendant. On September 27, 2015, Officer Jacob Pursell (“Officer Pursell”) received a dispatch regarding Defendant. The dispatch advised that an anonymous caller recognized Defendant from a Crime Stoppers broadcast and that the Defendant was located at the Flashbacks bar at 3013 South 83rd Plaza, Omaha, Nebraska. The caller added that Defendant arrived in a white Ford Expedition with a partial license plate number of “SYL” and that Defendant was armed with a firearm.

         Officer Pursell drove to Flashbacks and was joined by Officer Adam Fisher (“Officer Fisher”). The officers located the Ford Expedition parked in the parking lot and parked their cruisers near it. The officers performed computer data checks on the vehicle and Defendant. The check revealed that the license plate on the Ford Expedition was stolen out of Bellevue, Nebraska, and the VIN number of the Ford Expedition was registered to a U-Win Auto Sales. The data check for Defendant revealed the locate bulletin and a photo of Defendant. Other uniformed officers arrived on scene and additional cruisers were placed at the various Flashbacks entrances.

         Officer Fisher alerted the other officers that he saw Defendant exiting Flashbacks. Sergeant Sheridan approached Defendant and called to him. After seeing officers, Defendant fled the area on foot. Officer Pursell pursued Defendant several blocks and continued through another parking lot where Defendant ran up a flight of stairs and disappeared from Officer Pursell's sight. Officer Pursell drew his firearm and ran up the stairs where he discovered Defendant lying prone on the concrete. Officer Pursell held Defendant at gunpoint until other officers arrived.

         Defendant was taken back to the Flashbacks parking lot. No weapon was found on Defendant or near his path of flight. Sergeant Sheridan called Sergeant Steven Fornoff (“Sergeant Fornoff”), who was aware of the armed robberies at the Walgreens store and the U.S. Bank. When informed of Defendant's detention and the location of the white Ford Expedition bearing stolen plates, Sergeant Fornoff requested the vehicle be towed to the OPD Impound Lot, and that an inventory search of the vehicle be conducted. At the evidentiary hearing, when asked to describe his reasoning for the inventory search and tow, Sergeant Fornoff responded to the following questions: Q. What was your reason for asking him to conduct an inventory search?

A. I had concerns that there would be evidence inside the vehicle linking him to the robberies that I mentioned prior.
Q. At that point you also had the report of the stolen plates ...

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