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United States v. Dortch

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

November 21, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiffs,
v.
JOSHUA Z. DORTCH, Defendants.

          FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATION, AND ORDER

          Cheryl R. Zwart United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendant has moved the court for an order “suppressing any and all evidence derived from the unlawful arrest of the defendant on March 23, 2018 as said arrest violated his rights under the 4th Amendment.” (Filing No. 73). Defendant argues the officers lacked probable cause to arrest him. In his post-hearing brief, Defendant further argues that prior to the arrest, he was illegally detained without reasonable suspicion. Defendant asserts any evidence arising from the detention and arrest must be suppressed as fruit of these Fourth Amendment violations.

         For the reasons discussed below, the motion to suppress should be denied.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Beginning at least as early as June of 2017, John Justin Armstrong, a Sergeant for the Lincoln Police Department, was investigating a series of robberies occurring in Lincoln, Nebraska. Defendant Joshua Dortch became a suspect for these robberies. Dortch was arrested for a jewelry store robbery in 2017. Although that charge was ultimately dismissed, as a result of his investigative efforts, Sergeant Armstrong became acquainted with and able to recognize Defendant Dortch, and he received information from the Omaha Police Department indicating Dortch was associated with Anwar Hunt, his co-defendant in the above-captioned case.

         A jewelry store at the Gateway Mall in Lincoln, Nebraska was robbed on February 15, 2018. Based on video surveillance, a black Dodge Ram pickup was identified as the vehicle used for transport to and from that robbery. Sergeant Armstrong conducted follow up investigation and found the black Dodge Ram vehicle parked in front of Hunt's residence. He ran the license plates for that vehicle and discovered it was owned by Enterprise Car Rental. Through contacts with the rental agency, he learned the vehicle was rented by Jamia Peak.

         During the first week of March 2018, the Enterprise rental agency contacted Sergeant Armstrong and reported that Jamia Peak had returned the Dodge Ram pickup and then rented a black Jeep Cherokee. Enterprise provided the license plate number for the Jeep Cherokee.

         At 1:16 p.m. on March 23, 2018, Sergeant Armstrong heard a radio dispatch announcing a robbery at a Sartor Hamann jewelry store located near 27th Street and Pine Lake Road (the Southpointe Pavilion area) in Lincoln, Nebraska. Sergeant Armstrong was at the police headquarters in downtown Lincoln when he heard the call. He immediately went to his vehicle and began driving south toward the Southpointe Pavilion area (a 10- to 15-minute drive) to assist.

         As he was driving to the robbery scene, dispatch reported the robbery suspects were described as two black men wearing construction vests and driving a red car. Dispatch further reported that Rolex watches had been stolen, and one of those watches was equipped with a GPS tracking device. Using this tracking device, Sartor Harmann was monitoring the location of the stolen property and continuously apprising dispatch of its movement. Dispatch, in turn, conveyed this information to the officers, including Sergeant Armstrong, who were responding to the robbery. The GPS signal stopped moving at the east edge of an apartment complex approximately two miles north of the Sartor Hamann store. Upon hearing the reports from dispatch, Sergeant Armstrong headed to the apartment complex instead of the robbery scene.

         Based on the tracking device signal, the stolen property was located behind a garage near the intersection of Carnelian Street and Serenity Circle in Lincoln, Nebraska. Sergeant Armstrong entered the area from the west, driving down Carnelian Street.

         As he passed the 3300 block of Carnelian, he noticed a black male (later identified as Dortch) sitting on the front entry step of building at 3310 Carnelian Street.

         (Image Omitted)

         He continued down the street and noticed a black Jeep Cherokee parked 150-200 feet from the GPS-signaled location of the stolen property. The license plates on the black Jeep matched the plate number for the Jeep Cherokee rented from Enterprise by Jamia Peak. The black Jeep was running, with headlights on, and it was parked facing west and approximately 600 feet from the black male at the apartment building entrance.

         Sergeant Armstrong passed the black Jeep, made a U-turn, passed the black Jeep again, and then parked his vehicle facing west on the north side of Carnelian Street and between the black Jeep and the as yet unidentified black male. From that vantage point, he could look to the front and ...


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