Parker v. State, 21A-CR-1643

Citation21A-CR-1643
Case DateSeptember 22, 2022
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Peter D. Juan Dontrell Parker, Appellant-Defendant,
v.

State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

No. 21A-CR-1643

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 22, 2022


Appeal from the Vanderburgh Superior Court No. 82D03-2001-F4-551 The Honorable Robert J. Pigman, Judge

Attorney for Appellant

Cara Schaefer Wieneke

Wieneke Law Office, LLC

Brooklyn, Indiana

Attorneys for Appellee

Theodore E. Rokita

Attorney General of Indiana

Tyler G. Banks

Supervising Deputy Attorney General

Indianapolis, Indiana

TAVITAS, JUDGE

Case Summary

[¶1] In this interlocutory appeal, Peter D. Juan Dontrell Parker challenges the trial court's order denying his motion to suppress, claiming that: (1) the trial court erred by failing to find that defensive collateral estoppel applied and had

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preclusive effect, and (2) the evidence, nonetheless, should have been suppressed because it was seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. We conclude that collateral estoppel does not apply and that the seizure of the evidence in question did not violate Parker's constitutional rights. Accordingly, we affirm.

Issues

[¶2] Parker presents two issues for review, which we restate as follows:

I. Whether the ruling of a federal district court in a case arising out of the same encounter as the present case in which the federal district court granted Parker's motion to suppress has preclusive effect in this state criminal case
II. Whether the traffic stop of Parker's vehicle, during which police found Parker in possession of a handgun, was supported by reasonable suspicion as required under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution

Facts and Procedural History

[¶3] At approximately 11:06 p.m. on January 16, 2020, a home-invasion burglary occurred in Evansville, Indiana. The victims of the burglary described the perpetrators as a white male and a biracial male. During the burglary, the perpetrators "pistol whipped and threatened [the occupants] with a knife." Tr. Vol. II pp. 36-37.

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[¶4] Evansville Police Department ("EPD") Officer Samuel Shahine had just ended his patrol shift and was beginning his work as a security officer with Lawman Tactical, a private security company. Officer Shahine was beginning his security shift at Berry Plastics at around 10:59 p.m. As he patrolled, Officer Shahine drove a truck visibly marked with Lawman Tactical's logo on the side; however, the truck did not have a police light bar on the roof.

[¶5] Officer Shahine heard a transmission giving the description of the vehicle involved in the burglary, which was "[a] silver four-door passenger car with damage to the driver[-]side rear door and at least two occupants," but no make or model was given. Exhibit Vol. I p. 56. The dispatch information included a more detailed description of the assailants, i.e., a white male in his late twenties with light brown or blond hair, and a biracial male in his mid-twenties with short black hair and no facial hair, but Officer Shahine did not hear this transmission. Because he was in the security vehicle and not his patrol vehicle, he was unable to read the "run card," which captures information about incidents and specific descriptions. Tr. Vol. II p. 68. The run card in this instance reflected that there were at least two occupants of the car. Officer Shahine knew that the location given for the burglary was "fairly close" to Berry Plastics, or "within two miles," so he kept a lookout for the car while patrolling the nearby parking lots. Tr. Vol. II pp. 38, 60.

[¶6] While listening to the broadcast, Officer Shahine turned his vehicle onto an adjoining street with public parking next to Berry Plastics and headed northbound. At around 11:40 p.m., he saw a silver or gray car legally parked

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on the street facing north. Employees of Berry Plastics sometimes parked along the street. In Officer Shahine's opinion, the vehicle matched the suspect-vehicle description in that it was silver and had "damage on the side of the vehicle," though he later testified that he was "sure there's a lot of silver 4 door passenger cars in Evansville Indiana." Tr. Vol. II. p. 44; Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 130.

[¶7] Officer Shahine came upon the vehicle from the back and drove slowly past it, trying to get a look at the vehicle's sole occupant. As he passed, "the driver kind of ducked down to conceal his identity[.]" Tr. Vol. II. p. 44. Officer Shahine saw very little of the driver, but he did observe "like maybe a dark hooded sweatshirt and partial of a face, but it was so dark [he] couldn't tell if it was a dark skinned male or a light skinned male." Id. at 48. Officer Shahine made a second attempt to view the driver from a different vantage point in a parking lot, using the high beams of his vehicle by directing them at the driver; however, he could not get any better information on the driver because the driver "ducked down even further." Id. at 44. He testified that the driver's behavior was "a red flag in our profession that shows that somebody is up to nefarious activities or something to investigate further." Id. Officer Shahine radioed his location, and on-duty officers arrived to conduct the traffic stop. Officer Shahine said that he "possibly had their vehicle involved from the robbery," when giving his location. Id. He gave the license plate number and a description of the vehicle.

[¶8] As Officer Shahine began driving southbound, Parker pulled into the nearby parking lot and changed direction such that he followed southbound in his

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vehicle directly behind Officer Shahine. The two vehicles continued driving southbound until they reached a four-way stop. Officer Shahine proceeded southbound through the intersection. Parker's vehicle came to a complete stop at the intersection and, after signaling, turned east, travelling "at a high rate of speed." Id. at 47. Officer Shahine, however, had no way to determine exactly how fast. No speeding citation was issued.

[¶9] On-duty officers turned on their lights and sirens to signal Parker to pull his vehicle over to the side of the road, and Parker complied. When Parker's vehicle came to a stop, uniformed officers conducted a "felony car stop." Id. at 51. Officer Shahine testified that the term "felony car stop" means that there are "a minimum of two [police] cars," because it is a "high risk situation" in that the "driver of the vehicle [is] being stopped" because they are "either armed and dangerous or [have] committed some kind [of] high level felony." Id. at 51. During such stops, officers have their weapons drawn on the driver, and such occurred here. In this case, there were five officers conducting the felony stop.[1] A canine officer was also present. The felony stop procedure involved having Parker open the car door using the outside handle, walking backwards toward the officers while placing his hands on his head, during which officers had their weapons drawn on him.

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[¶10] During the stop, Parker followed the officers' directions and off-duty Officer Shahine placed him in handcuffs. Parker responded to Officer Shahine's questions, indicating that no one else was in the car and informing him that he had a pistol on his hip. The officers then secured the handgun. Because Parker had a previous conviction for a serious violent felony, his possession of a firearm was illegal, and he was placed under arrest.

[¶11] Parker was identified as a black male aged forty-three. Police eventually cleared Parker of any involvement in the burglary, discovering that he had just left work at Berry Plastics. His shift at work ended around 11:30 p.m. that night. EPD Officer Adam Steppro, who participated in the felony stop of Parker's vehicle, testified that, though they were ultimately proven wrong after the stop was complete, they believed at the time that they were stopping one of the burglary suspects.

[¶12] Based on that traffic stop, the State charged Parker with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm as a serious violent felon, a Level 4 felony. Parker was also charged in federal district court with possession of a firearm by a felon based on those same facts. Parker was on federal probation at the time of the stop.

[¶13] Parker filed motions to suppress in both state court and federal court to challenge the lawfulness of the stop and the seizure of evidence. The federal litigation ended first with the district court granting Parker's motion to suppress. The district court held that the officers did not have a reasonable

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suspicion to conduct the traffic stop, that their mistake was unreasonable, and even if the stop was lawful, the use of the felony stop procedure amounted to an arrest without probable cause. See Appellant's App. Vol. II pp. 218-36 (federal district court's order granting motion to suppress).

[¶14] Upon receiving this ruling, Parker amended his state-court motion to suppress. He included the argument that the trial court was bound by the district court's ruling and, thus, was compelled to grant the state-court motion. The trial court denied the motion to suppress in two separate orders. The first order denied the use of defensive collateral estoppel because "the State of Indiana was not a party to the federal prosecution and never had the opportunity to litigate the issue of the lawfulness of the stop." Id. at 239. The court in its second order denied the motion, specifically finding Officer Shahine's and Officer Streppo's testimony credible, that Parker's vehicle sufficiently matched the dispatched suspect-vehicle description to justify the stop, and that the felony stop was a Terry stop, justified by the factors of "officer safety," "the possibility of the presence of a weapon," and "the nature of the violent...

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