(Updated at 4:30 p.m. on 7/20/22) The man arrested after the fatal shooting of two construction workers in Alexandria over the weekend was set to be tried for weapons and drug charges in Arlington earlier this year, but charges were dropped.
The reason: a ruling that police conducted an unconstitutional search prior to a 2020 arrest.
Francis Deonte Rose, 27, has so far only been charged with burglary in connection to an incident earlier Saturday morning at an Alexandria apartment complex, but additional charges are expected.
Police say two workers, ages 48 and 24, were shot in the head and were “innocent bystanders to the whole situation.” Officers had been called to the Assembly Alexandria apartment complex around 7:30 a.m. Saturday for reports of someone kicking in the doors at “multiple” apartments, our sister site ALXnow reported Monday.
Alexandria police radio traffic at the time suggested that the burglary suspect was the ex-boyfriend of an apartment resident and known to carry a gun.
Rose, meanwhile, has a history of gun charges. In 2019, a then-24-year-old Rose was arrested by Metropolitan Police in D.C. and charges with Carrying a Pistol without a License, Bench Warrant, Possession of Unregistered Ammunition, and Possession of an Unregistered Firearm.
The .45 caliber handgun he was allegedly carrying in the Columbia Heights neighborhood was confiscated, according to an MPD press release.
In October 2020, Rose was arrested again, this time in Arlington.
From Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage, provided to ARLnow:
At approximately 10:23 p.m. on October 17, 2020, officers conducted a traffic stop in the 2300 block of Richmond Highway for a suspended operator’s license. During the course of the investigation, the passenger was found to be in possession of narcotics and a loaded handgun and ammunition were located in a bag alleged to belong to the passenger. Francis Rose, 25, of Washington D.C. was arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substance (x2), Possession of a Firearm while in Possession of a Controlled Substance (x2), Possession of a Firearm as a Convicted Felon, Possession of Ammunition as a Convicted Felon and Carrying a Concealed Weapon.
Rose was charged with intent to manufacture, sell or distribute cocaine and fentanyl, according to court documents, as well as possession of a gun and ammunition by someone convicted of a felony within the past 10 years.
The charges against Francis Rose, which were then droppedA grand jury indicted Rose in September 2021, and he was set for a jury trial this past February when defense attorneys made a motion to suppress evidence in the case.
That motion was granted by Arlington Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman, according to court records, and charges were then dropped for a lack of evidence. Rose was later freed.
In all, he was in the county jail from Oct. 18, 2020 until Feb. 23, 2022, according to the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office.
Reached via email by ARLnow, Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said the case was made impossible to prosecute after the judge’s ruling.
“As court records show, our office attempted to proceed on those charges, but during a suppression hearing, a judge ruled that the police had performed an unconstitutional search and, as the law required, suppressed the evidence in the case,” the county’s top prosecutor said. “Obviously, we could not prove a case without the evidence, and therefore dismissed it.”
“My heart breaks for the families and loved ones of the people killed this weekend,” Dehghani-Tafti said.
Asked about the case, an Arlington police spokeswoman said “ACPD does not opine on decisions made by the court.”
The defense motion to suppress the evidence, obtained by ARLnow from the circuit court after the initial publication of this article, argues that both the drugs and the guns should be excluded from any jury trial. It says that officers found the gun in a bag that Rose was wearing but ordered by officers to leave in the car. The bag was then searched and the gun found, followed by the discovery of “a small quantity” of drugs, the motion says.
The motion argues that police had “no authority to order Mr. Rose to leave his cross-body bag in the vehicle” and that the search was predicated on a smell of marijuana that was coming from the car — which was driven by a female companion — but not from Rose himself.
Judge Newman granted the motion.
The defense attorney listed for Rose could not be reached by phone. Her firm’s website notes that challenging police searches is one of the ways it works for clients.
“As a legal term, guilty refers to the legal standard that requires the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” says the website. “Often, the government cannot meet this burden due to procedural hurdles, the passage of time, and missteps by law enforcement — even if you actually committed the offense. Furthermore, if the police violate your constitutional rights to obtain evidence of guilt, then knowing how to exclude that evidence is critical.”
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