Criminal Law Blog

But I Heard it from That Guy! Random Information Passed from One Cop to Another Without Explanation Does not Justify a Terry Stop

Jenkins v. United States (decided February 2, 2017)

Players: Associate Judges Glickman and Blackburne-Rigsby, and Senior Judge Pryor. Opinion by Judge Pryor. PDS for Mr. Jenkins.  Trial Judge: Neal E. Kravitz

Summary: After a man attempted to rob him inside his apartment building between 3:00 and 4:00 pm, the complainant described the assailant to officers from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) as 21 to 22 years old, 5’8” to 5’9”, with a dark brown complexion, average build, dreads, a ski mask and dark clothing.

Special Police Officers (SPOs) in the apartment complex where the incident occurred reviewed security camera footage, which apparently did not capture the robbery. Nonetheless, when SPO Walker arrived for his midnight shift, another SPO, who had supposedly looked at the camera footage, told him they were looking for a “black male, with a black ski mask, blue jeans, black jacket, and a bicycle.” Based on this description, SPO Walker stopped Mr. Jenkins (who was on a bicycle) outside of the apartment complex sometime near 1:00 am. He was frisked and weapons and ammunition were found. Mr. Jenkins did not have dreads and was light-skinned.

Issue 1: Did the vague description given by one SPO to another, in the absence of any record evidence about what was on the video, provide reasonable articulable suspicion to justify the stop?

Holding 1: No. The government presented neither the security camera footage, nor the officer who viewed the footage at the suppression hearing. Thus, the government failed to meet its burden to demonstrate that the information relied on by SPO Walker was itself based on reasonable articulable suspicion (and indeed, on this record, that was highly questionable).

Issue 2: Did either the description given by the complaining witness to MPD, or the description given by the non-testifying SPO to SPO Walker, justify the stop?

Holding 2: No. Both descriptions would apply to too many people, and, particularly when combined with the passage of almost ten hours, could not support a reasonable articulable suspicion of Mr. Jenkins. CP