The Massachusetts Appeals Court today upheld the weapons-possession convictions of alleged Dorchester gang members Ferndy Elysee and Richard Davis after their vehicle was pulled over following a disturbance at Dorchester District Court in 2006.
The court ruled that Boston Police officers who stopped their SUV after the Dec. 19, 2006 incident inside the court building acted properly and that they had the right to arrest the two after they spotted one gun inside the vehicle - and then found another during a search.
According to the ruling, officers were called to the courthouse to help break up a brewing battle just before the metal detectors between members of the Morse Street gang and a single member of the Lucerne Street gang, at a time when disturbances inside the building - and even shootings outside it - were commonplace.
Two members of the gang unit persuaded the Lucerne Gang member to leave - after he cursed at them. They then watched him get picked up by a black Mercedes SUV. Police stopped the vehicle on the way to Codman Square after one officer spotted it make a turn without signaling. The court wrote: "As the officers approached, they noticed the rear of the SUV rocking, indicative of movement by the occupants. The officers suspected that one or more of the occupants was trying to conceal something. Because the SUV's windows were heavily tinted, the officers for their own safety ordered the occupants to lower all the windows."
The court ruled the the "totality" of everything the officers had seen that day - from the disturbance inside the court to the way one of the SUV's occupants seemed to be lying about whether he had a gun - to justify more than just a citation for not signaling. The topper was the rocking, the court concluded:
"Most importantly, after the SUV was pulled over, and while the police were approaching it, they observed it rocking in a manner consistent with significant movement by the SUV's occupants. Given the timing of this, it was reasonable for the officers to conclude that this indicated concealment of something, most likely, given the circumstances, a weapon. In the circumstances, this indicated some risk to safety. Davis's failure when asked to identify himself, to look at Officer Henriquez, or to answer, and his lying when asked if he had identification, could appropriately have served to bolster the officers' suspicion that indeed some contraband, most likely a weapon, was somewhere in the vehicle."