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United States v. Maestas

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 9, 2019



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Rueben Vincent Maestas's Motion to Suppress (ECF No. 35). The Court held a hearing on the motion on December 11, 2018. The Court, having considered the motion, briefs, evidence, applicable law, and otherwise being fully advised, concludes that the motion to suppress should be granted.


         The Dennis Chavez Federal Building (“Federal Building”) is located at 500 Gold Street in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and houses multiple federal agencies, including the Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”), Housing and Urban Development, the Veterans Administration, and the Bankruptcy Court. Dec. 11, 2018 Hr'g Tr. (hereinafter “Hr'g Tr.”) 7:2-9:10. Although the agencies operated from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., there were federal employees working for the agencies who stayed in the building after hours. Id. at 9:20-10:5. Christopher Sena, a Protective Security Officer (“PSO”), is a federal contract worker under the Federal Protective Services (“FPS”) who at the relevant time was assigned to the Dennis Chavez Federal Building. Id. at 5:21-7:11, 61:25-62:6.

         He is not a federal employee, nor is he a law enforcement officer. Id. at 41:17-18, 49:6-7. His duties at the time included providing security for and patrolling the grounds to prevent vandalism at the Federal Building and the Federal Courthouse at 421 Gold Street, which is located catty-corner to the Federal Building. See Id. at 7:12-8:13. At the time of the incident, the FPS maintained heightened security vigilance at the federal building because it had been shot at on several different occasions within the past three years. Id. at 12:18-13:4, 64:6-65:1. PSOs were to patrol more in the public eye so the public would be aware security was present. Id. at 13:9-14. As a PSO, Sena does not have arrest authority off federal property. Id. at 49:11-13.

         On March 20, 2018, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Sena was on duty, wearing his full uniform displaying his badge with the company logo and man number. See Id. at 6:24-7:4, 13:15-22, 62:7-21. A few employees were present in the building at the time. See Id. at 10:6-21. Sena was escorting an FWS employee to her car in a parking garage for safety reasons. See Id. at 14:18-15:19, 23:20-24:4. They walked down the steps of the Federal Building and began walking west on the sidewalk between Gold Street and the federal property on which the Federal Building is located. See Id. at 15:14-22, 21:24-23:13; Gov.'s Hr'g Ex. 1 (“Video 1”). The sidewalk upon which they walked was not federal property, but the adjacent area to the south of the sidewalk was federal property. See Hr'g Tr. 21:24-23:13; Gov.'s Hr'g Ex. 2 (“Video 2”). Directly north across the street was an occupied apartment building. See Hr'g Tr. 16:19-25.

         A movie was filming on Fifth Street near the Federal Building. Id. at 12:9-17. There was pedestrian traffic from a bus stop located in front of the Federal Building, as well as heavier traffic on Gold Street due to the diversion of traffic around the movie set. See id.. Movie set equipment semi-trucks were parked in front of the apartment building. See Id. at 17:1-7; Video 1.

         As he walked westward, Sena heard a loud pop and turned around 180 degrees to look towards where the sound came, thinking it was a gunshot. See Hr'g Tr. 18:1-4, 44:1-18, 46:17-23. He did not immediately see anyone. See Id. at 44:14-45:3. A few seconds later, Sena saw two persons walking on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building between the semi-trucks. See Id. at 18:12-19, 46:23-47:1; Video 1. The first person was a man later identified as Defendant Maestas. Hr'g Tr. at 18:17-21. The second person worked security for the movie set and was stationed on the corner of Fifth and Gold Streets. Id. at 18:21-23. The FWS employee told Officer Sena, “Look, there is glass.” Id. at 19:16-19. The glass was approximately 30 feet from where Sena and the FWS employee stood. Id. at 45:11-23. None of the glass touched him or the FWS employee; all the glass was approximately 30 feet away from them. Id. at 55:25-56:12. From the location of the glass, Sena believed that the bottle hit the curb and shattered across the sidewalk and up the steps of the Federal Building. Id. at 19:23-20:4. Sena shifted believing the sound came from a gunshot to a thrown bottle. Id. at 19:19-22. Sena did not observe the bottle being thrown because he was facing the opposite direction. See Id. at 43:11-25; Video 1. Nor had he heard any yelling about the bottle being thrown. Hr'g Tr. 55:21-24.

         Sena and the FWS employee walked west towards the corner of Sixth and Gold Streets while he watched the legs of the pedestrians visible under the semi-truck as they walked on the sidewalk by the apartments. See Id. at 19:4-9, 48:1-10; Video 1. When he saw the person working security for the movie emerge from behind the semi-truck, he asked her if the man in front of her (later identified as Defendant Maestas) threw the bottle, and she responded, “yes.” See Hr'g Tr. 24:20-25:1. Sena and the FWS employee continued walking west towards the corner at Sixth and Gold Street. Id. at 20:5-8.

         Maestas began walking north on Sixth Street toward Central Avenue. See Id. at 24:6-9. Sena saw three people on the northwest corner of Sixth and Gold Streets near Maestas who were wearing uniforms marked “fugitive recovery agents.”[1] See Id. at 24:6-12, 49:14-22; Video 2. Sena believed them to be providing security for the movie. See Hr'g Tr. 24:9-12. Sena told them, “Hey, heads-up, that guy just threw a bottle at us and he is moving your way.” Id. at 50:4-7. The man said “ok, ” then turned around, went back to his post and told the other men. See Id. at 25:17-23. The other fugitive recovery agents went after Maestas. See Id. at 25:21-24. Sena watched them while remaining at the corner. See Id. at 26:9-10; Video 2.

         At that time, Sena did not know the fugitive recovery agents were going to bring Maestas to him. Hr'g Tr. 56:21-24. When Sena saw the fugitive recovery agents escorting Maestas towards Sena, Sena radioed Inspector Jose Carrillo, an FPS Federal Law Enforcement Specialist and PSO Program Manager for Region 7, for direction. See Id. at 26:9-14, 56:15-19, 60:15-61:12. Sena informed Inspector Carrillo that he had just had a bottle thrown towards him and another federal employee and the individual was coming back to his location and asked if they should detain him. See Id. at 26:17-22, 62:16-21. Inspector Carrillo said he was on his way. See Id. at 26:23-25.

         The fugitive recovery agents brought Maestas to the corner on the sidewalk where Sena was standing. See Id. at 27:1-6; Video 2. Sena escorted Maestas off the street onto the curb. See Hr'g Tr. 54:9-15. At that time, Maestas was standing on the west side of the lamppost on the City sidewalk, not on federal property. See Hr'g Tr. 51:9-25, 55:3-6; Video 2. Sena asked Maestas why he threw the bottle at them. Hr'g Tr. 27:8-9. Maestas started clenching his fists and his jaw, his eyes darting around and sizing him up, all of which Sena believed indicated Maestas was about to attack him, so Sena began to place him in handcuffs. See Id. at 27:10-14, 28:14-18. Sena told Maestas to drop his bag, so Maestas threw his bag down. Id. at 27:15-16. Maestas's bag dropped onto federal property. Id. at 27:22-28:1. As Sena grabbed Maestas's wrist to begin handcuffing him, Maestas said he was HIV positive and going to infect him. Id. at 27:17-20, 28:22-24. Maestas then said, “Fuck the Feds, ” and his name was “Enoch.” Id. at 29:1-8.

         Sena began moving Maestas to a safer location, placing him by a planter ledge on federal property near the Post Office's loading dock area, where he could safely lock the cuffs and search him for weapons. See Id. at 30:15-31:3. Maestas then started saying he had two bombs in his backpack and was “going to blow you up.” Id. at 31:5-12. At that time, Sena and Maestas were on federal property. See Id. at 32:4-9, 32:22-24. Sena is trained to take every threat seriously, so he treated the situation as a serious bomb threat. See Id. at 31:21-25, 34:18-19.

         Inspector Carrillo arrived in his vehicle marked with Federal Protective Service Homeland Security Police and parked. Id. at 32:13-21, 34:4-5, 65:10-13. Inspector Carrillo is a federal law enforcement officer, a full-time sworn salaried commissioned peace officer. Id. at 60:25-61:8. Inspector Carrillo's duties include enforcing federal laws, rules, and regulations while on federal property; investigating crimes, on and off federal property; overseeing security at all federally owned and leased facilities; and overseeing the PSO program. Id. at 61:15-21. Inspector Carrillo was wearing his full police uniform with Federal Protective Service Department of Homeland Security Police badge. Id. at 65:6-9.

         When Inspector Carrillo approached Maestas, he told him he was with FPS and that they take these types of threats seriously. Id. at 67:6-10. Maestas continued cursing, “Fuck the feds, ” and repeating that he was going to blow them up. See Id. at 33:15-22, 67:12-14. Sena took Defendant behind a nearby wall for “hard cover” in case of an explosion. See Id. at 34:9-16. Inspector Carrillo conducted a protective frisk of Maestas for weapons and explosives. Id. at 68:18-69:7. Maestas continued to say he was HIV positive, he was going to blow them up, that his name was Enoch, and “Fuck the feds.” Id. at 68:22-69:1. After frisking Maestas, Inspector Carrillo read Maestas his Miranda rights, and called the Denver MegaCenter to get support from Albuquerque Police Department to divert the public away from Defendant's bags. See Id. at 69:9-71:17. Meanwhile, Sena created a safe perimeter, directing pedestrians and traffic away from the bags. Id. at 35:23-36:10. Albuquerque Police Department bomb squad was called to determine if there were any explosive devices in the bags. Id. at 36:17-25. Ultimately, ...

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