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State v. Ortiz

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 12, 2018


          Argued February 22, 2018

         Procedural History

         Information charging the defendant with the crimes of assault in the third degree, possession of a sawed-off shotgun, and possession of the weapon in a motor vehicle, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield, geographical area number two, where the court, Holden, J., denied the defendant's motion to suppress certain evidence; thereafter, the defendant was presented to the court, E. Richards, J., on a conditional plea of nolo contendere to possession of a sawed-off shotgun and possession of the weapon in a motor vehicle; judgment of guilty in accordance with the plea; subsequently, the state entered a nolle prosequi as to assault in the third degree, and the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Alice Osedach, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

          Timothy J. Sugrue, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, state's attorney, and Richard L. Palombo, Jr., senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellant (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Lavine and Pellegrino, Js.


          PELLEGRINO, J.

         The defendant, Monday J. Ortiz, appeals from the judgment of conviction rendered by the trial court following a plea of nolo contendere to the charges of possession of a sawed-off shotgun in violation of General Statutes § 53a-211 and possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle in violation of General Statutes § 29-38 (a). On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress evidence seized during a warrantless search of his vehicle. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. At approximately 2 p.m. on November 22, 2013, Bridgeport Police Officer Kenneth Ruge was dispatched to the YMCA building on State Street in Bridgeport to investigate a report of an assault. The alleged assault took place at the Harrison Apartments, which are located in the same building as the YMCA. The dispatcher relayed to Ruge that the suspect was in his apartment with a shotgun. Ruge arrived at the building approximately four minutes later and was met shortly thereafter by Sergeant Joseph Szor and Officer Tyrone Teele. The three officers parked their patrol cars in front of the building on State Street and walked into the lobby area of the YMCA through the main entrance. While they were speaking with the receptionist, Samuel Sanchez approached the officers and identified himself as the victim of the assault.

         Sanchez, who worked at the YMCA in the maintenance department, told the officers that the defendant, a resident of the apartment building, came up from behind him and punched him in the back of the head. The officers observed injuries to the back of Sanchez's head and called for medical assistance for him. Sanchez described the defendant as a ‘‘shorter, medium build, bald Hispanic male'' and reported that he lived in apartment 417 and owned a shotgun.

         As they were speaking to Sanchez, an unidentified man approached the officers and told them that the person they were looking for was sitting with a shotgun in a gray van in the parking lot. Ruge transmitted this information over his radio while the unidentified man showed them to a side door leading to the residential parking lot; the man waited for them at the door. Around the same time, Officers David Neary and Garrett Waddel arrived and, having heard Ruge's update over the radio, proceeded to the parking lot to meet the other three officers. The parking lot was fenced in, located on private property and required a key card to access it. Posted signs indicated that the lot was for permitted residents of the Harrison Apartments only. When the officers arrived, there was only one gray van parked in the residential lot.

         The five officers went to the van and looked into it to see if anyone was inside. Although the windows of the van were tinted, the officers' ability to see inside the vehicle was not impeded. None of the officers saw the defendant or a shotgun in the van. The officers ran a license plate check on the van and learned that the plate did not belong to the van and that there was no information on record for the vehicle identification number.

         Ruge, Szor and Teele returned to the apartment building to continue their investigation, while Neary and Waddel stayed behind in the parking lot by the van. The unidentified man held the door open so that the three officers could reenter the building from the parking lot. The officers took the elevator to the fourth floor and approached apartment number 417. They knocked on the door for several minutes and received no answer. The officers then returned to the elevator and, as the elevator doors opened, a Hispanic male matching the description given by Sanchez exited the elevator and walked directly to the door of apartment 417.

         The officers stopped the man before he could open the door and asked his name; he identified himself as the defendant. He was then placed under arrest, handcuffed, and searched incident to the arrest. The officers seized a key fob, a 12 gauge shotgun shell, a screwdriver and a box cutter from the defendant's person. When asked if ...

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