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State v. Sweeney

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

October 11, 2019

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
TEROS ANDERSON SWEENEY, ALIAS

          Session May 30, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 105506 Steven Wayne Sword, Judge

         The Defendant, Teros Anderson Sweeney, alias, was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of assault, two counts of resisting arrest, and one count of criminal impersonation. The trial court merged various convictions and imposed an effective sentence of ten years' imprisonment to be served consecutively to the Defendant's sentence stemming from a prior federal conviction. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence related to his aggravated assault convictions, the length of his sentence, and the trial court's imposition of partial consecutive sentences. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Forrest L. Wallace, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Teros Anderson Sweeney, Alias.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Courtney N. Orr, Assistant Attorney General; Charme P. Allen, District Attorney General; and Randall Kilby, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, PRESIDING JUDGE

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Defendant's convictions resulted from his altercation with a police officer as the officer was attempting to arrest him. The evidence presented at trial established that at approximately 10:30 p.m. on May 31, 2014, Knoxville Police Officer Darrell Sexton was dispatched to respond to a call regarding a domestic disturbance at an apartment in a local housing development. Officer Sexton, an officer with the K-9 unit, arrived at the apartment one or two minutes after being dispatched and was wearing a K-9 uniform and driving a marked police vehicle.

         Officer Sexton knew the male occupant of the apartment from prior interactions and was allowed to enter the apartment. The occupant reported that he had been having problems with "Terry," a guest who had been staying with him. Another man inside the apartment stated that "Terry" had been acting "crazy" and had been trying to fight everyone there. Officer Sexton was escorted to the back porch, which opened into another parking lot, and several people standing outside reported that "Terry" had been acting "crazy" but did not offer any other details.

         While Officer Sexton was speaking to those outside the apartment, he saw the Defendant, who met "Terry's" description, peeking at them from around the corner of a building. Officer Sexton went to investigate and saw the Defendant sitting on the step at the end of the building in which the complainant's apartment was located. Officer Sexton asked the Defendant for his name, and the Defendant responded, "Terry." Officer Sexton confirmed that the Defendant was the same person who had been involved in the dispute at the apartment. When Officer Sexton asked the Defendant for his identification, the Defendant said he did not have any identification and identified himself as "Terry Anderson." Officer Sexton testified that the Defendant supplied his date of birth but was "real hesitant" in doing so. The Defendant claimed that he did not have a middle name. He allowed Officer Sexton to pat him down but began moving to prevent the officer from conducting a thorough pat down.

         Officer Sexton testified that he asked the Defendant about the complaint in an effort to reach a resolution. The officer requested the Defendant's social security number, which the Defendant provided and the officer wrote down in his notebook. Officer Sexton radioed a request for a warrants check on the Defendant using the name that the Defendant had provided. Officer Sexton stated that when communicating over the radio about any outstanding warrants that a person may have, he liked to keep a twenty-one-foot "reactionary gap" between himself and that person. He explained that because the Defendant appeared to be deceptive and due to fear that the Defendant would attempt to flee, the officer maintained a reactionary gap of six to eight feet between himself and the Defendant. As a result, the Defendant could hear everything that Officer Sexton reported over the radio, but the Defendant never corrected the officer or told the officer that the information the officer reported was incorrect. Officer Sexton received information over the radio that there were no outstanding warrants for the name given to him by the Defendant. Because Officer Sexton believed that the Defendant was being deceptive, the officer requested that the social security number be checked. Officer Sexton learned that the social security number that the Defendant provided to him belonged to a female who lived at another location. Officer Sexton testified that those who are deceptive in providing their identification typically have outstanding arrest warrants. As a result, he attempted to secure the Defendant until he could ascertain the Defendant's true identity.

         Officer Sexton testified that he handcuffed the Defendant's right hand while the Defendant was seated. The Defendant stated that the officer had reported the wrong social security number. The officer told the Defendant that he was under arrest and attempted to place the other handcuff on the Defendant's left hand. The Defendant began resisting, which Officer Sexton said was the typical reaction of someone who had provided a false identity. Officer Sexton stated that the Defendant stood up and that they "kind of danced in a little circle" as the Defendant prevented the officer from handcuffing him. Officer Sexton ordered the Defendant multiple times to put his hands behind his back and to get on the ground, but the Defendant failed to comply. The officer threatened to use a taser on the Defendant, but the Defendant still refused to comply.

         Officer Sexton stated that he pointed his taser at the Defendant and threatened to tase him if he continued to resist. Officer Sexton said the Defendant pulled hard and attempted to run. They went around in a circle; Officer Sexton pulled the trigger of the taser twice; and the taser malfunctioned. Once they were facing each other, Officer Sexton was able to get the taser to deploy. One prong of the taser stuck to the Defendant, while the other prong went over the Defendant's shoulder. Officer Sexton testified that as a result, the taser did not employ the full charge so as to incapacitate the Defendant. The officer dragged the Defendant to the ground and attempted to stick the other prong on the Defendant's body to complete the circuit. The officer was not able to do so because the Defendant continued to resist.

         Officer Sexton testified that the Defendant's level of resistance increased while they were on the ground. The officer was on top of the Defendant, who continued to twist, pull, and attempt to get away. Part of the taser's wire was wrapped around Officer Sexton's hand; and he only felt a small pulse on occasion; and he determined that the taser was malfunctioning. Officer Sexton placed the taser away from the Defendant and radioed for help. The Defendant grabbed the taser and came at the officer with it, and the officer was able to wrestle the taser away from the Defendant.

         Officer Sexton testified that the Defendant then tried to pull Officer Sexton's gun out of its holster. Officer Sexton had a "level three holster" with a "hood" and two buttons that had to be pushed in order to draw the gun. The Defendant pulled on the gun multiple times, and Officer Sexton threatened to shoot him if he did not stop pulling on the gun. At one point, the Defendant got up, and the officer was able to take him back down. The Defendant was much taller than the officer and was able to reach around the officer and grab his gun. Officer Sexton was able to push the gun back down and pivoted his hips to break the Defendant's grip on the gun. While they were both on the ground, the Defendant grabbed the gun with both hands and tried to pull it out of the holster. Officer Sexton yelled for help from onlookers, but no one came to his aid.

         Officer Sexton stated that he drew his gun while the Defendant was holding him around the head and neck area. Officer Sexton brought the gun around with the muzzle close to his face but hesitated due to his concern for the safety to the nearby crowd. Officer Sexton said that when he hesitated, the Defendant grabbed the end of the gun around the slide and barrel, and they fought over the gun. Officer Sexton was able to pivot his hips, which broke the Defendant's grip on the gun. They were on the ground with Officer Sexton on top of the Defendant, and the Defendant put Officer Sexton in a head lock and attempted to choke him. Officer Sexton fired a round into the Defendant's leg, but the Defendant continued to resist. Officer Sexton fired a second round into the Defendant's leg, but the Defendant did not react. Officer Sexton fired a third round into the Defendant's groin, and the Defendant indicated that he no longer wanted to fight but still had Officer Sexton in a headlock. Officer Sexton ordered the Defendant to let go of him, and the Defendant complied.

         Officer Sexton testified that during the struggle, he believed that the Defendant would shoot him if the Defendant got control of the gun. Officer Sexton explained that he shot the Defendant in the legs because that was the safest shot that he could take without injuring himself or anyone in the crowd. The altercation was recorded on the video camera in Officer Sexton's vehicle, and the recording was played for the jury at trial.[1] Other police officers had not yet arrived by the conclusion of the altercation. Officer Sexton reported to a dispatcher that he was involved in a shooting and that emergency medical personnel were needed. He instructed the dispatcher to send police officers first to control the crowd, which was becoming increasingly hostile.

         On cross-examination, Officer Sexton acknowledged that the Defendant was calm initially and that no weapons were found on the Defendant during the patdown. Officer Sexton also acknowledged that the recording reflected that he told the Defendant, "I'm going to shoot you," after he had radioed for help. Officer Sexton explained that the Defendant had picked up the taser and was coming at him with it. Officer Sexton warned the Defendant again when the Defendant tried to get the gun. At one point during the struggle, Officer Sexton punched the Defendant in the face. Officer Sexton stated that when he pulled the gun out of its holster, the Defendant grabbed the gun by the barrel.

         Mr. Marvin Dixon, who lived across the street from the scene of the altercation, testified that he had heard yelling from across the street prior to the officer's arrival, while Mr. Dixon was sitting on his porch. When the officer's vehicle arrived, Mr. Dixon went inside, retrieved a beer from his refrigerator, and returned to his porch. He saw the officer and the Defendant standing outside beside a porch across the street. Mr. Dixon stated that although it was dark outside, a street light lit up the area so that he was able to see the officer and the Defendant. Mr. Dixon heard the officer state that the Defendant did not have any outstanding warrants and that the Defendant was allowed to leave. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Dixon heard the officer state that the Defendant did have an outstanding warrant and could not leave. The officer placed one handcuff on the Defendant, and they began fighting.

         Mr. Dixon stated that he saw the officer and the Defendant arguing and wrestling on the ground. The officer yelled for help, and Mr. Dixon went to the area but backed away once he saw the officer and the Defendant wrestling over a gun. Mr. Dixon said that the Defendant and the officer both had their hands on the gun and that at one point, the Defendant had possession of the gun. Mr. Dixon was concerned for the officer's safety. During the struggle, Mr. Dixon heard a "muffled shot" followed by two loud sounds.

         Mr. Dixon testified that a "little kid" was the only other person in the area when the shooting occurred. Following the shooting, people began to gather, yell at the officer, and accuse him of shooting the Defendant while the Defendant was on the ground. Mr. Dixon yelled at the crowd to back up and allow the officer to do his job. Mr. Dixon then ran across the street to retrieve his cell phone in order to call for help but heard other officers and emergency personnel arrive.

         On cross-examination, Mr. Dixon testified that he saw the Defendant's hand on "the butt and the trigger part" of the gun and the officer's hand on the Defendant's hand. Mr. Dixon saw the gun come up while in the Defendant's right hand and saw the officer grab the Defendant's wrist and push it down twice, after which shots were fired.

         Investigator Charles Terry of the Knoxville Police Department interviewed the Defendant at the hospital the day after the shooting. The Defendant assured Investigator Terry that he was not heavily sedated or in extreme pain. The Defendant waived his rights and agreed ...


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