By Nancy Martinez
WOODLAND – A preliminary hearing was presided over by Judge Paul K. Richardson in Department 12 on Feb. 21, 2020, regarding Tejay Allen Kennedy who was detained on Sept. 12, 2019, for an outstanding arrest warrant issued in July 2019.
The prosecution’s first witness testified to the events that led to the detainment of Tejay Allen Kennedy at R. Harris Park on September 12. The court concluded, based on the witness’s statement, that the encounter which led to the detainment was consensual and not a violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights and thus denied the defense’s motion to suppress the charge.
The prosecution’s first witness was Gina Bell, a police officer of the Woodland’s Police unit, the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST). According to Officer Bell, HOST is an outreach unit that works to decrease the number of the Woodland homeless population by providing them with basic necessity supplies and performing check-ins to transient individuals on probation.
Officer Bell testified that on Sept. 12, 2019, she was driving by R. Harris Park in Woodland when she noticed a group of five men at park tables near the back section of the park. She drove onto the park’s pedestrian-walking pavement in the direction of the men to perform check-ins and provide them with any supplies they may have needed.
Officer Bell testified that her social services manager was with her on this occasion and both interacted with the men at the park tables. Through images provided by the defense from Officer Bell’s body cam, Officer Bell was able to testify to their physical positions with respect to the men. Their physical position appeared to be surrounding the men with two patrol vehicles and multiple officers.
As part of a routine check-in, Officer Bell testified that she asked the names of the five individuals at the park and proceeded to provide dispatch with this information. Officer Bell said she recognized two of the five men at the park and began conversing with them while waiting for dispatch to do background checks on the names that were provided.
The two men Officer Bell had recognized were currently on probation, which indicated to Officer Bell that she would have to conduct probation searches. Officer Bell stated that because there were two men who required probation searches, she had to call for backup so the second person could be searched.
Within a few minutes, Officer Bell was informed that one of the individuals, Tejay Allen Kennedy, had an arrest warrant out for him. This information led Officer Bell to believe she had probable cause to detain Mr. Kennedy.
Deputy Public Defender Erin Dacayanan argued that Mr. Kennedy was illegally detained in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights because he was in a situation in which he could not freely leave.
This was not the consensual encounter that the prosecution claimed it was. Instead, the defense claimed that the situation in which Mr. Kennedy was detained was a situation in which no one would feel free to leave, even if the officers never said that no one was allowed to leave. The five men were surrounded by officers in uniform that were displaying their authority, rather than engaging in consensual conversation.
The prosecution maintained that neither Officer Bell nor her supervisor ever told the five men they were being detained or that they could not leave the scene. Mr. Kennedy freely provided his name to Officer Bell and there was no reason for Mr. Kennedy to have not been able to leave.
The defense continued to argue that the detainment of Mr. Kennedy began the moment Officer Bell called for backup to perform probation searches, because this prompted Mr. Kennedy to feel that he could not leave the scene on his own terms as there were multiple officers present surrounding them.
The court declined the defense motion to suppress based on the court’s ruling that the detainment of Mr. Kennedy was not a violation of his Fourth Amendment. The court stated that the events which unfolded did not rise to the situation of pressure that would prohibit Mr. Kennedy from leaving, and this was indeed a consensual engagement between two parties.
A pre-trial conference will be held on March 6, 2020, in Department 12.
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