Circuit Finds No Reasonable Suspicion for 'Terry' Stop
Two anonymous 911 tips that a man was carrying a gun in the Bronx did not give officers reasonable suspicion to stop and search him, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Thursday.
Suppressing a gun seized from defendant Joseph Freeman during the early morning hours of April 27, 2011, two judges on the Second Circuit said police were unable to assess the credibility of an unknown caller and had no other information to corroborate the calls.
The decision in United States v. Freeman, 12-2233-cr, vacates Freeman's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1) and spares him a lengthy prison term.
Judges Rosemary Pooler (See Profile) and Christopher Droney (See Profile) made the decision on appeal from a bench trial on stipulated facts before Southern District Judge Paul Crotty (See Profile). Judge Richard Wesley (See Profile) dissented.
The first call on April 27, 2011 came into the 911 system at 1:36 a.m., with a female caller saying a Hispanic male wearing a black hat and a white t-shirt had a gun near the Chase Bank on East Gun Hill Road.
The dispatch picked up by Officers Joseph Walsh and Ryan Conroy said "a person possibly armed with a firearm" was "arguing with a female" near the bank.
A second call was received at 1:38, and the officers were en route when they heard a second description from the dispatcher that the suspect was a "male black" wearing a white du-rag, black hat and long white t-shirt.
The officers attempted to stop Freeman at 1:40 as he was walking along East Gun Hill Road. They got out of their unmarked car and placed their hands on Freeman's elbow, but Freeman shrugged them off and kept walking.
At this point, Walsh put Freeman in a "bear hug" and then tripped him to the ground. Following a short struggle, police handcuffed Freeman and pulled a gun from his waistband.
Crotty found police had reasonable suspicion and denied Freeman's motion to suppress on Dec. 13, 2011.