W.D.N.C.: RS arose from domestic argument officer could hear

The officer responded to what sounded like a fight and that was reasonable suspicion. Added to that was defendant’s furtive movements when the officer got there. Defendant’s actions also supported a protective search of the vehicle. United States v. Blount, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23282 (W.D. N.C. Feb. 11, 2020):

Here, these critical factors from Storey reveal that Officer Szynarowski’s stop was reasonable. To begin, the officer’s request to “hop out” did not occur in the confines of the home, but in a Target parking lot. Second, the officer was not simply responding to a report of a “loud argument,” but also of a “possible fight.” In fact, he actually heard the “ongoing shouting as he approached the [vehicle],” including a distressed scream. Id. (citing Schreiber v. Moe, 596 F.3d 323, 330 (6th Cir. 2010); Tierney v. Davidson, 133 F.3d 189, 192 (2d Cir. 1998)). Next, rather than admitting there was an argument, Defendant and McVay provided inconsistent explanations for the screaming that were incommensurate with the scream the officer overheard. Finally, the officer here had continuing concerns that McVay was a victim of domestic violence—concerns which were not yet abated. Thus, Storey reinforces the officer’s domestic violence suspicions.

Even if the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to investigate possible domestic crimes, several other factors demonstrate that the officer reasonably suspected that a “weapons crime” might have been occurring. When the officer asked Defendant to “hop out of the car” and to leave the child, he: (1) hesitated for several seconds; (2) turned his body toward the officer to obstruct his view; (3) appeared to hold a plastic bag; (4) appeared to tuck something underneath the passenger seat; and (5) exited the vehicle with the child in his arms. When considered alongside previously discussed factors, these furtive, obstructive actions support a brief investigatory stop to confirm or dispel the officer’s suspicion that Defendant possessed a weapon and that he possessed it unlawfully. See United States v. Gardner, 823 F.3d 793, 800 (4th Cir. 2016), overruled on other grounds, Stokeling v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 544, 202 L. Ed. 2d 512 (2019); United States v. Thorpe, 36 F.3d 1095 (4th Cir. 1994) (table) (recognizing a “passenger’s peculiarly furtive actions” can be “consistent with that of a person trying to reach for a weapon or hide [contraband]”).

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