Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Prosecutor: Police had right to stop youths in sandbag case

An attorney for one of the teenagers charged in connection with tossing a sandbag over an overpass onto a car argued Wednesday that police did not legally stop the juveniles on Indiana Avenue. 

Demetrius Wimberly, 14, the only youth who has not entered a plea in connection to the death of Marquise Byrd — the passenger killed after a sandbag struck a vehicle Dec. 19 while it was traveling on I-75  — appeared Wednesday before Judge Denise Navarre Cubbon.

RELATED: Two of four teens plead guilty in sandbag killing case | Third teen pleads guilty in sandbag killing

Pedro Salinas, 13, Sean Carter, 14, and William Parker, 15, who have entered pleas in connection to the death of Mr. Byrd, 22, of Warren Mich., will be sentenced at a later date. 

Wimberly’s attorney, RaShya Cunningham, argued Wednesday the boys were not legally stopped on the Indiana Avenue overpass because neither a witness nor police saw them engaged in any criminal activity. Ms. Cunningham previously filed a motion to suppress the stop. 

“They were not doing anything wrong. At no point in time was there any allegation by anyone that these boys were engaged in or had engaged in a criminal activity,” she said. 

The prosecutor’s office Wednesday argued police had every reasonable suspicion to take the boys aside and speak to them after they knew a crash occurred in the area. Lori Olender, deputy chief of the juvenile division, asked the judge to deny the motion. 

Ms. Olender said most crimes are not eye-witnessed and police did not overstep their bounds by questioning the teens, who were some of the only individuals in the area that evening. 

Toledo Police Officer Stephen Bates was one of the officers to respond to the Indiana overpass area at about 10:20 p.m., just about 10 minutes after the crash was dispatched, he testified Wednesday. 

Police canvassed the area, and Officer Bates testified they did not immediately see anyone outside. They observed where the sandbag was thrown from — as they saw sandbags in the construction area on the overpass along with a sandbag lying on the side of the expressway, he said. 

An employee at Fleet Pride, 200 Indiana Ave., told police he was on break when he saw a group of juveniles in dark clothing walk from the Port Lawrence apartments, which are across the street from the business. The employee told the officer the group walked westbound on Indiana Avenue, across the overpass, Officer Bates testified. 

The employee told officers he did not see anyone in the group throw the sandbag. 

EDITORIAL: Sandbag death case draws attention to other issues

While officers were speaking to the employee, the group of teens was spotted walking back down Indiana Avenue and was identified by the worker, Officer Bates said. The officer said the timeline matched. 

Officers went to the group — identified as the Salinas, Carter, Wimberly, and Parker youths — and questioned what they were doing. Officer Bates testified Wednesday the questioning of the teens lasted approximately 10 to 20 minutes. 

Officer Bates said he took one of the teens aside and he admitted one of them threw the sandbag from the overpass. 

The boys were then transported to the Toledo Police Department’s Detective Bureau for further questioning and later charged. 

The Salinas youth previously pleaded guilty to throwing the sandbag that struck the vehicle. 

“Minus even the witness here in this case, the officers knew something had gotten thrown over this overpass. There was no one outside, no one. These four boys were going to be interviewed regardless, as our officer said,” Ms. Olender argued to the judge. 

Judge Cubbon will rule on the motion Monday.

Contact Allison Reamer at areamer@theblade.com, 419-724-6506, or on Twitter @AllisonRBlade.

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