By Ariel Abdallah
SACRAMENTO – A car with an open container of marijuana parked in a red zone led to the arrest of two suspected “Strawberry Manor Bloods”—allegedly in possession of two firearms and cocaine—and a preliminary hearing Monday in Sacramento County Superior Court.
Benjamin McGlothin and Emmanuel Price were asking for a motion to suppress under the pretense that the officers did not just walk up to the car because of a traffic concern, but because they were profiled as “two Black dudes sitting in a car.”
The defense and prosecution called for three of the four Sacramento police officers involved to testify as witnesses.
Judge Kevin McCormick presided over this preliminary hearing for both defendants and over the motion to suppress for McGlothin, who was represented by defense attorney R. Jones. Co-defendant Price was represented by Byron Roope. Jennifer Gong was the deputy district attorney.
The group of officers passed the car and flipped back around, during which the driver turned his head to look at them. All four got out of the police car and approached the defendants’ vehicle on foot. Terman and Jenson went to the passenger, Benjamin McGlothin, while McDonald Cunningham went to the driver’s window.
Terman recognized the driver, Emmanuel Price, from his time on the gang enforcement team when he had been monitoring Price’s Instagram account for several months.
Price previously posted several photos and short video clips of himself with guns on Instagram. Terman said he knew that Price was a validated Strawberry Manor gang member and believed that his associate, McGlothin, could also be a gang member.
Price denied that he was under searchable probation and had posted photos with guns when confronted by the officers. Following this encounter, the officers smelled and saw a burning marijuana blunt in the center console area.
Terman let his partners know that the combination of the defendants being parked in a red zone, having an open container of marijuana, and one being a validated gang member, gave him reason to believe Benjamin and Emmanuel were in possession of firearms.
Gang members, the officer testified, typically have firearms in vehicles for both offensive and defensive purposes, especially in a disputed territory like the one they were in. Terman also stated that, at the time of the encounter, “we were in the midst of, in my opinion, the most violent gang war in the history of the city.”
Both defendants were patted down and the car was searched. McGlothin was found to have a Glock in his right front pants pocket. Officer Cunningham discovered a Glock in between the center console and the driver’s seat.
Additionally, once the defendants were taken to jail, Officer Jenson did a more thorough pat down of Price, where he found .33 grams of cocaine in a folded-up bill. McGlothin was in possession of Ecstasy and a white pill labeled MS367.
During the defense’s arguments, Jones proposed a motion to suppress because the officers had no reason search and detain his client, McGlothin. He also alleged that since there was no sign or writing on the curb stating that the two were parked in a fire zone, according to city and county ordinances, the officers did not have the right to approach them based on parking violations.
Roope said the circumstances that led to the search and detainment of Price and McGlothin are offensive to the court, noting, “All of that and the combination of everything is what gives me concern for that initial approach, initial stop, and initial confrontation to get them out of the vehicle…
“My concern is we have the argument from the officer is that, ‘we see this red curb, except for maybe really it’s because he turned his head, except for maybe it’s because he’s a gang member, but I can’t prove any of this and I have no actual proof of that except I monitor hundreds of things and I definitely recognized his face and then I stopped.’
“Again, to me, that starts to sound like there are four officers in a neighborhood that they are worried about, they see two Black dudes sitting in a car, and as they approach they recognize one of them and everything goes from there. Not because they’re there for any actual concern of them parking alongside the curb,” he said.
In rebuttal, DDA Gong submitted the argument that the officers’ procedure was not in violation of the Fourth Amendment, but rather was done in accordance with their training and experience for the safety of the officers and the defendants.
The prosecutor had asked Officer Terman, “How many times would you say in your career you conducted a traffic stop like this one with a validated gang member as a suspect?” The officer replied, “Hundreds.”
The court ruled there was enough evidence for both to answer to the three felony counts. Trial is set for Dec. 7.
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