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Search and Seizure — reasonable suspicion

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Search and Seizure — reasonable suspicion

Where an officer was dispatched to a report of a large group of people with guns, but there was no disturbance when he arrived, the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk one of the persons present.

“[W]hile officers were responding to a weapons call, that fact could not give rise to a reasonable belief that Mr. Williams, personally, was armed and dangerous. By the time the officers arrived, the situation looked much different than had been reported during the 911 call. Considerably fewer people were present, and the individuals who were present were not acting loudly or displaying their weapons. Thus, upon their arrival, the officers had practically no reason to believe that any of the remaining individuals were armed and dangerous. Indeed, the individuals with guns may have been among the 15 to 20 individuals who had left the group between the time of the call and the officers’ arrival. Moreover, the 911 caller did not provide any information that would have identified Mr. Williams as one of the individuals in possession of a weapon. In sum, the 911 call was vague, circumstances had changed, and therefore we cannot envision that the call support a reasonable belief Mr. Williams was armed and dangerous.”

“Even taking every one of those facts in conjunction with one another, we must conclude that, together, they do not support a reasonable belief that Mr. Williams was armed and dangerous. The government is required to show that Officer Jesberger’s frisk was supported by articulable facts that could establish specifically that Mr. Williams was armed and dangerous. The facts, here, are much more general, and could be applied to practically any person that had been around the area when the officers showed up that night. Indeed, similar facts could support a search of practically anyone who happens to be near a high-crime area at night when police are called. That is the very evil that the Terry court was concerned with unleashing, and the reason that the Terry court restrained the ability to frisk. See Terry, 392 U.S. at 17–18. Accordingly, we are obliged to conclude that Officer Jesberger’s frisk of Mr. Williams was unconstitutional.”

Reversed and Remanded.

12-3864 U.S. v. Williams

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, Conley, J., Stadtmueller, J.

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