S.D.W.Va.: No RS: officer’s description of the alleged threat was too vague to be meaningful at all

There was no reasonable suspicion for defendant’s frisk, and the officer’s description of the alleged threat was too vague to be meaningful at all. United States v. Buskirk, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183594 (S.D. W.Va. Oct. 2, 2020)*:

Moreover, when the deputies arrived at the scene, they observed nothing to indicate that any violence or threats had occurred. The Defendant was seated inside his truck and Ms. Archer was standing outside the truck some distance away. Instead, the deputies appear to have relied entirely on a “look” from Ms. Archer that she had, in fact, been engaged in an “argument” to trigger their suspicion of illegal conduct. The Court finds that an officer’s interpretation of such a “look” is nothing more than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch that cannot serve as the basis for reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal conduct. The call that prompted the deputies’ appearance only referenced a heated argument and the Fourth Amendment simply does =not permit detention without reasonable suspicion of a crime.

Next, to justify handcuffing the Defendant, Deputy Casto stated that the Defendant “attempted on three occasions to turn away from Deputy Casto and walk towards the truck” and was “displaying mannerisms that Deputy Casto felt were consistent with a ‘fight or flight’ response and felt that he was either going to attempt to run or become violent.” (Document 48 at 5.) However, the Defendant was, in fact, free to walk away, and the deputies had no legal basis to prevent him from doing so because, at that point, there was still no reasonable articulable basis for suspecting illegal conduct. Relying on uncharacterized “mannerisms” to justify a detention based on officer safety is also insufficiently vague.

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