How Tinted Windows and Red Blanket Led to 4-Defendant Gun and Drug Bust

By Pavan Potti

SACRAMENTO – It’s been more than three long years since their big bust, but City of Sacramento police officers Jonathan Magner, Jabier Gutierrez and Nathanael Reason last Friday told a Sacramento County Superior Court judge at a preliminary hearing a long, detailed story of how they made a big gun and drug bust.

On July 12, 2017, Magner was paroling on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Sacramento County with his partners Gutierrez and Reason when he suddenly noticed a Lexus with tinted windows blocking a driveway on the street.

As Magner continued to drive past until stopping at a nearby traffic signal, he observed from his left side rearview mirror a young man in dreadlocks standing conversing at the right back door of the car.

The subject, later identified as Alan Bell, looked around the street to make sure the coast was clear, before a long object covered in a red blanket was passed to him from inside the car, said the officer added that he then saw one end of the object was pointier than the other.

That raised his suspicion that the hidden object being passed was a rifle. Little did Officer Magner know he was soon going to be finding a lot more items that evening, resulting in the arrests on gun and drug charges of four people, all at a preliminary hearing Friday.

After being passed the long object, Officer Magner noticed Bell disappearing into the side yard, walking fairly briskly. According to Magner, his first reaction to a possible rifle possession was to take an immediate U-turn and to park right behind the Lexus. Magner conducted a background search on the license plate of the Lexus and received information that the car was associated with a firearms arrest from April of the same year.

As he approached the Lexus, walking to the right back door of the car, which was open and where Bell had been standing, he recalled catching the extremely pungent odor of fresh marijuana; a smell which officer Magner stated smelled “like an ounce of weed.” Using the possible possession of marijuana as his reason, Magner walked toward the car.

He stepped closer to the car and noticed that, apart from the driver, who was identified as Daron Owens, there were two passengers in the back seat. The man sitting in the right corner was identified as Romanie McKnight while the other sitting in the left corner behind the driver was identified as David Clemmonds.

When questioned by Magner as to whether they were in possession of marijuana, all of them shook their heads in denial. When Magner asked McKnight if he had just passed out a rifle, McKnight simply answered, “I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Officer Gutierrez had approached the side yard door in search of Alan Bell, only for Bell to return out of the house empty handed, and denying he had a gun. He claimed to the officer that the men in the car had shown up to the house to return back a jack handle. He further prompted Gutierrez into the garage of his house where a jack handle was found wrapped up in a white blanket.

As Gutierrez made his way back to the car, Magner, who was still near the car, noticed a transparent jar filled with marijuana lying in the car. He decided to detain the possible suspects while continuing to browse around the car.

When he noticed a backpack in the backseat of the car, he opened it up to find more marijuana inside, and then found a Springfield XD9 9-millimeter gun. This prompted him to check the car even more thoroughly before also finding a Sks 30 round magazine underneath the driver’s seat; the magazine in particular being used for rifles.

After containing the suspects in the car, the officers got consent from the residents of the house to search around the garage and kitchen area. As they made their way into the northeast bedroom that was connected to the kitchen, it was here where the officers came into contact with the fourth defendant, Dorell Gary.

While searching around the house for the rifle, the officers approached the garage of the house where four cars were parked.

As he proceeded over to one of the cars, a Nissan, Gutierrez claimed to have smelled a burnt marijuana scent from the vicinity of the car. While searching the trunk, he eventually came across the suspected rifle in play, which had been covered in a red blanket. At this point, Officer Magner had called for backup, and more units were slowly arriving at the scene.

After receiving orders from his sergeant to search the house, the officers soon obtained a search warrant to fully search the inside of the house. It was here where the officers went inside Dorrel Gary’s bedroom and found a plastic organizer in his closet. Behind the organizer, however, there was a blue duffle bag, which when opened, was found to have an ARIS style rifle with 30 round magazines and loaded ammo.

Gary denied the gun was his, adding the gun might have his DNA on it because he touched it, but he was unaware that the gun was being stored in his bedroom as he didn’t have access to who was entering the room when he wasn’t in the house.

According to the officers, they had collected statements from each of the defendants at the scene. Romaine McKnight admitted that the backpack found in the car was his and that the gun inside was also his. He said he had been carrying the gun for protection as many of his friends had died recently.

McKnight stated that he didn’t know about the rifle in the red blanket, and that he was at the house to pick up Alan who he saw was approaching them with a jack handle wrapped in a white blanket.

Daron Owens took ownership of the vehicle, stating that he owned and was the driver of the Lexus. He further added that he was at the house to pick up Alan and the jack handle and had no knowledge of the rifle which had been passed to Alan Bell from the back of his car.

Once the officers finished narrating, Detective Ryan Oliver was brought to clarify that the guns submitted as evidence matched the guns found on record, which he confirmed.

Once all the witnesses had been called, the respective attorneys of the defendants had a chance to speak with the judge and have statements.

The strongest of these came from McKnight’s attorney Leslie Ramos, who argued Officer Magner did not have a strong enough reason to approach the Lexus, noting that it would have been impossible for Magner to have guessed how much marijuana was present in the car, simply from the smell. If his search was unlawful, then Ramos said there would be no basis for the backpack found in the back seat to have been checked.

All of the respective defense lawyers emphasized that their clients had no prior criminal history or hadn’t been in legal trouble since 2017. Alan Bell’s attorney, David Garlin, even expressed to Judge Kevin McCormick that his client Daron Owens is a student athlete, currently attending school on scholarship while playing college football.

Judge McCormick first addressed Ramos’s concerns, disagreeing the search was unlawful, and noting it was the possible rifle possession that raised Magner’s suspicion, and he had the right to approach the vehicle because it was illegally parked in front of a driveway.

McCormick, while acknowledging the relatively clean record of those charged, refused to reduce the charges to misdemeanors, in part because of the large amount of ammunition found.

The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10 at 1:30 pm.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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