United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
on the morning of July 15, 2015, police officers with an
arrest warrant for Jose Vasquez knocked on the door to his
apartment and announced their presence and purpose. After a
short wait, they broke through the door, entered, and found
Mr. Vasquez and his wife in bed. While assisting Mr. Vazquez
to dress, the police saw heroin and cash fall from pants
pockets or become exposed to plain view in a clothes hamper.
Vasquez, who is charged with heroin distribution offenses,
has moved to suppress the evidence found in the apartment, as
well as statements he made that day, on the ground that the
officers violated the Fourth Amendment’s
"knock-and-announce" rule before forcibly entering
his home. His motion requires me to decide whether the
officers waited an adequate amount of time before breaking
into his home to comply with the rule, and if not, whether
suppression is the proper remedy for the violation.
considering the evidence introduced at a two-day hearing, I
find that the police did not wait long enough to give Mr.
Vasquez an opportunity to come to the door and thus violated
the knock-and-announce rule. Further, in the absence of an
applicable Second Circuit precedent, I adopt the reasoning of
the D.C. Circuit in United States v. Weaver, 808
F.3d 26 (D.C. Cir. 2015), as to why the exclusionary rule
should apply to a knock-and-announce violation committed
while executing an arrest warrant at a
suspect’s home, even though it does not apply to one
committed while executing a search warrant at the
home under Michigan v. Hudson, 547 U.S. 586 (2006).
I therefore find that the unlawful entry into Mr.
Vasquez’s home calls for suppression of the evidence
obtained during execution of the warrant, including
statements he made at the home. I do not find, however, that
it calls for the suppression of the separate admission made
later by Mr. Vasquez at the command post during booking. I
therefore GRANT in part and DENY in part Mr. Vasquez’s
motion to suppress (ECF No. 44).
Findings of Fact
evidentiary hearing, the government called Connecticut State
Police Detective Christopher Walsh, Connecticut State Police
Sergeant Charles Burns, and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
Supervisory Special Agent John Rubinstein as witnesses. Mr.
Vasquez called his wife, Elizabeth Vasquez, as a witness.
Based on the parties’ evidentiary presentations, I make
the following findings of fact.
Events Before Knock and Announcement
in the morning on July 15, 2015, officers from the
Connecticut State Police and the DEA gathered to execute a
series of approximately 19 warrants relating to alleged drug
trafficking crimes. (Hr’g Tr. Vol. I at 15-19.) One of
the warrants called for the arrest of Jose Vasquez, who was
known to reside at 100-102 Washington Street in West Haven,
Connecticut. (Id. at 150-52.) Detective Walsh,
Sergeant Burns, and Special Agent Rubinstein were assigned to
a team responsible for executing Mr. Vasquez’s arrest
warrant. (Id. at 12, 18.) During the pre-execution
briefing, the officers discussed the manner in which they
would enter Mr. Vasquez’s residence. (Id. at
102.) The officers had no specific information that Mr.
Vasquez possessed or used weapons, that there would likely be
weapons inside Mr. Vasquez’s residence, or that Mr.
Vasquez was a dangerous person. Detective Walsh’s
testified that he "believed" he received
information about "particular concerns" about the
group of 19 individuals to be arrested, but identified no
such information other than a general association between
drug crimes and firearms:
Q: And was there any part of the briefing in which either the
DEA personnel advised you and the other people present about
any particular concerns or steps you should take in
approaching any of the suspects that you might be having to
execute process on?
A: I believe they did. The particulars, I’m not sure.
But basically at the end of the day that anyone involved in
this type of organization we look at as a dangerous person.
Just through training and experience, the connection with
firearms is always there. So regardless of the past or what
they said, we would consider these persons as possibly
Q: And is that your practice customarily when you’re
doing state warrants for the State Police?
A: It is.
Q: In a drug case, large scale drug trafficking organization?
A: That’s correct.
THE COURT: Can I just follow-up with one question? . . . At
this briefing, did you receive any specific information about
[Vasquez] in that regard?
THE WITNESS: I may have, Your Honor. I just don’t
THE COURT: So as you sit here, you don’t know?
THE WITNESS: That’s correct.
. . .
A: . . . And there was also some of [other warrant targets]
who did have violence in their past, their past police
records, et cetera. However, I don’t know which ones
did and which ones didn’t.
Q: But you’re clear I think in saying that you were not
given, as the Judge asked you, specific information that Mr.
Vasquez was known to carry a weapon, for example, or was
known to have engaged in gun play or something in the past?
A: That’s correct.
Q: So any concern that you would have with him was really
based on your general experience with these cases?
A: That’s correct.
(Id. at 17-18, 22.) Sergeant Burns repeated this
assertion on cross-examination:
Q: And as you said earlier, you don’t recall there
being anything specific about him being dangerous or having a
propensity to use guns or anything like that?
Q: It’s just your general training that sometimes there
are guns even when we don’t expect it?
A: Yes, sir, tool of the trade.
(Id. at 72.) Nor did the officers receive specific
information suggesting that they should anticipate to find
narcotics in Mr. Vasquez’s residence:
Q: Going into the apartment that day, other than what you had
heard generally about the investigation, there was no
indication that Mr. Vasquez was going to have a large
quantity of drugs with him, is that right?
A: I expect nothing and anticipate everything.
. . .
Q: In your experience . . ., you’ve done buy/bust
Q: Where a transaction occurs and you go in immediately to
see what’s there, right?
A: Not a lot. That’s not a level that we deal with.
. . .
Q: With Mr. Vasquez, is that what had happened before this?
Q: No one had made a delivery, as far as you knew, right
before you crashed the door in, right?
A: Not to my knowledge, ...