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Shotgun Sighting Supported Detention

The Court of Appeals affirms defendant’s bench trial conviction and five-year sentence for felon firearm possession:  a bank employee’s eyewitness report of defendant parked in a car armed with a shotgun near the bank provided reasonable suspicion to detain and investigate.

A bank employee working in her office reported to police seeing defendant remove a shotgun from the trunk of his vehicle parked facing the bank 50 yards away at the end of a parking lot for a pizza restaurant.  An officer responding observed defendant eating pizza and ordered him out of the car.  Another officer arrived and took the shotgun.  A third officer arrived and recognized defendant as a convicted felon from the officer’s work at a jail.  The trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress, convicted him of felon possession of a firearm and imposed a five-year sentence.

On appeal, defendant argues denying his motion to suppress violates his Fourth Amendment rights.  We disagree and affirm.  An investigatory stop only requires reasonable suspicion unlawful activity is afoot.  Reasonable suspicion considers the totality of the circumstances viewed objectively by a reasonable officer with the knowledge, training and experience of the investigating officer.  Subjective intent is irrelevant.  Officers on the scene must make split-second decisions.  The responding officer made a reasonable decision defendant’s conduct was not consistent with hunting or target shooting common in the area:  he was parked in a parking lot facing the bank 50 yards away and an eyewitness reported him arming himself with a shotgun from the trunk.  These circumstances provided a reasonable, articulable suspicion criminal activity was afoot.  Affirmed.

Hill v. Commonwealth (Huff) No. 0323-13-2, Feb. 4, 2014; Halifax Cir. Ct. (Cunningham) Jeffrey R. Fox for appellant; Steven A. Witmer, Sr. AAG.  VLW 014-7-028(UP), 7 pp.

VLW 014-7-028

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