Judge suppresses evidence in drug-weapons case

LISBON – Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam ruled this week to suppress the evidence found in a pat-down search of Damarion Wise, who is charged with carrying a concealed weapon, having a weapon while under disability and two counts of trafficking in drugs.

According to court documents, Wise is accused of having a loaded handgun beneath his hooded sweatshirt at 3:30 a.m. Nov. 17, 2012, when he was in the vicinity of Joe’s Bar. At the time, Wise was under indictment for another drug trafficking offense in a 2010 case.

Besides the weapon, the pat-down search conducted by then Wellsville Patrolman Luke Skidmore reportedly revealed four baggies of marijuana with a total weight of 5.5 grams and three bags of cocaine with a total weight of 15.1 grams.

When he testified in March, Skidmore said at about 3:30 a.m. on Nov. 17 he had received an phone call from an anonymous woman reporting her friend saw a black man with a gun standing outside the bar.

Skidmore testified the area of Joe’s Bar was considered a high crime and narcotics area by Wellsville police, who had responded to more than 20 calls in the immediate vicinity in 2012. Most of those calls involved drugs, weapons, assaults and other violent crimes and at that time, police were attempting to have the bar closed as a public nuisance, which happened at a later date.

Wise was reportedly standing at the bottom of the stairs on the 12th Street side of the bar when Skidmore arrived, fit the description given and had his arms inside his hooded sweatshirt with the empty sweatshirt arms hanging limp. Wise reportedly showed his hands when requested.

For his own safety, Skidmore testified, he conducted a pat-down search and reportedly “clearly felt” the barrel of a gun under the sweatshirt. When he asked what it was, Skidmore testified Wise responded “a little bit of weed.” At that point, Wise spun away and fled, pursued by three officers and was apprehended in a vacant lot.

At that point, the gun was recovered and police later discovered the cocaine and marijuana in a bag around Wise’s neck or shoulder.

Washam ruled that because Skidmore did not see Wise behave in a criminal manner and could not vouch for the credibility of the informant, there was no reasonable articulable suspicion.

“Merely being dressed like or fitting the description provided by the informant, or even being in the location of a high crime area is not enough,” Washam wrote.

A status conference in Wise’s case is scheduled for June 7.