Guam: Anonymous report of man in car with gun didn’t satisfy Navarette

Anonymous report of man with a gun in a car led to defendant’s stop, and the court finds it insufficient under Navarette because there was no allegation of a crime. People v. Mansapit, 2016 Guam 30, 2016 Guam LEXIS 28 (Oct. 24, 2016):

[*15] The tipster reported firsthand observations of an ongoing event, adding weight to a finding of reasonable suspicion. See Navarette v. California, 134 S. Ct. 1683, 1688-89, 188 L. Ed. 2d 680 (2014); see also United States v. Edwards, 761 F.3d 977, 984-85 (9th Cir. 2014) (finding reasonable suspicion for caller’s ongoing account of suspect shooting at cars). However, a tip must reliably assert an illegal act, and not just reliably identify a certain individual without details on criminal conduct. See Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 272, 120 S. Ct. 1375, 146 L. Ed. 2d 254 (2000); see also United States v. Freeman, 735 F.3d 92, 98-100 (2d Cir. 2013) (finding no reasonable suspicion where caller provided physical description and location, but no predictive knowledge of concealed criminal activity); United States v. Lewis, 672 F.3d 232, 240, 56 V.I. 871 (3d Cir. 2012) (finding no reasonable suspicion where tip about firearms did not include any information about legality of firearms). Here, the caller merely claimed, “There’s a guy with weapons out there,” with no details as to what type of weapons or the illegality of such weapons or how those particular weapons were used or brandished. Tr. at 2 (911 Emergency Transmissions). Furthermore, there was no evidence presented describing an altercation leading up to the 911 call or vehicle pursuit. Consequently, further investigation and observation would be required to justify a stop under Terry, as the evidence from the call alone failed to be “reliable in its assertion of illegality.” See J.L., 529 U.S. at 272; see also Johnson, 1997 Guam 9 ¶ 5 (“Some tips, completely lacking in indicia of reliability, would either warrant no police response or require further investigation before a forcible stop of a suspect would be authorized.” (quoting White, 496 U.S. at 329)).

[*16] Moreover, there is no indication from the transcript that the police officers that caught up with the two vehicles observed any traffic offense, dangerous driving, or the likelihood of either. Reasonable suspicion would certainly be present if officers observed a traffic violation. See United States v. Callarman, 273 F.3d 1284, 1286 (10th Cir. 2001) (“[A] traffic stop is valid under the Fourth Amendment if the stop is based on an observed traffic violation ….” (quoting United States v. Botero-Ospina, 71 F.3d 783, 787 (10th Cir. 1995) (en banc))); see also United States v. Miranda-Guerena, 445 F.3d 1233, 1236 (9th Cir. 2006) (holding that one officer’s personal observation of traffic violations is sufficient to support reasonable suspicion for traffic stop effectuated by a second officer). The investigating officers may have made such observations and thus been justified in deciding to conduct a traffic stop. However, the only evidence presented at the hearing on the suppression motion was the audio of the 911 call and radio communication; there was no testimony or statements by police officers. See RA, tab 34 (Min. Entry, Dec. 20, 2012). Consequently, we are left solely with evidence of a vague tip and one vehicle following another with no indication of an altercation, dangerous driving, or traffic violations to establish that Mansapit was engaged in current or imminent criminal activity. Although it is in the public interest to allow police to act upon oft-incomplete information that is likely to resolve unknown disturbances, the facts presented at the suppression hearing did not supply the requisite reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot.

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