CA7: Stop-and-frisk at gunpoint was reasonable

Defendant’s actions justified a stop and frisk at gunpoint, and it was still a mere detention and not an arrest. United States v. Olson, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 19744 (7th Cir. July 18, 2022):

The officers approached Olson with their guns drawn, ordered him to place his hands on the hood of the car, physically secured his arms, disarmed him, and handcuffed him. In Olson’s view, this amounts to a de facto arrest. The officers’ decision to draw their weapons and handcuff Olson is atypical of a permissible Terry stop. We have consistently recognized, however, that the use of such force does not automatically convert a Terry stop into an arrest under certain circumstances, such as when officer safety is in question or a weapon may be present. United States v. Shoals, 478 F.3d 850, 853 (7th Cir. 2007) (“The cases are clear … that police officers do not convert a Terry stop into a full custodial arrest just by drawing their weapons or handcuffing the subject.”); see also United States v. Eatman, 942 F.3d 344, 347 (7th Cir. 2019); Howell v. Smith, 853 F.3d 892, 898 (7th Cir. 2017); Matz, 769 F.3d at 525. Both are true here. Given the unique and extreme circumstances of the night in question, the officers’ use of force when approaching Olson was eminently justifiable.

What little the officers knew about Olson when they decided to confront him demanded they do so with extreme caution. Having watched Olson conceal a gun in the waistband of his pants, the officers knew Olson was armed. Hamilton saw Olson drinking from a “tallboy” style can possibly containing alcohol, suggesting Olson could be intoxicated. Olson carefully scrutinized his surroundings, which Gatdula and Hamilton interpreted to be “countersurveillance” measures to avoid detection. The officers had little time to confront Olson before he had the opportunity to leave the area, and Marzullo was particularly concerned Olson might pursue the group of officers that recently left the chapel. Each of the officers testified, and the district court found, that one purpose of the stop was to ensure law enforcement and civilian safety.

Beyond Olson’s individual actions, the singular circumstances of the night in question reinforce the appropriateness of the officers’ response. …

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