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United States v. Adair

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 3, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Herman D. Adair, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued April 11, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. l:17-cr-10053 - James E. Shadid, Judge.

          Before Sykes, Scudder, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.

          Scudder, Circuit Judge.

         Officer Curtis Squires received a crime-in-progress notification while patrolling in Blooming-ton, Illinois during the late evening hours of September 21, 2017. More details followed. The 911 operator informed Officer Squires that a caller from the Tracy Drive Apartments reported a group of persons outside her apartment engaged in suspicious activity. The caller added that a short black male wearing a hoodie had a gun in his front pocket. Arriving moments later, Officer Squires saw the group, approached to see what was going on, and observed that Herman Adair roughly fit the 911 caller's description and had a large bulge in his front pants' pocket. Adair sought to evade Officer Squires by moving and weaving throughout the larger group-trying to put others between Officer Squires and himself. Officer Squires then stopped and patted down Adair, finding a gun in his front pocket. The district court concluded that all of this respected the Fourth Amendment. We agree and affirm.


         The question presented turns on whether, under the totality of circumstances facing Officer Squires at the Tracy Drive Apartments, he had reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk Adair under the standard announced in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

         The full facts emerged during a suppression hearing in the district court. A few additional points warrant emphasis. Officer Squires received the emergency notification just after 10:45 p.m. The additional details came in a message transmitted by the 911 operator to the computer in Officer Squires's police car. According to the message, the 911 caller provided her first name and phone number and stated that she had just been outside and saw the group smoking, drinking, and engaged in "very suspicious activity." The caller added that, while she did not recognize anyone as living in the Tracy Drive Apartments, she walked by a short black male with a hoodie and saw he had a black gun in his front pocket. While driving to the location, Officer Squires spoke to the 911 operator and confirmed this information.

         Officer Squires knew the Tracy Drive Apartments well. A seven-year veteran of the Bloomington Police Department, he had responded to the area many times to address reports of theft, burglaries, fights, and shots fired. He also knew local gangs to have a presence at the apartment complex. At the suppression hearing, Officer Squires testified to being concerned that, upon arriving at the Tracy Drive Apartments, he would encounter someone who did not live at the complex but was nonetheless outside drinking and carrying a gun. The concern, he underscored, was the product of seeing many times over that alcohol and guns do not mix well.

         It took Officer Squires no more than two minutes to drive to the apartment complex. Upon exiting his car, he saw about ten people standing outside, just as the 911 caller reported. As he approached the group his attention focused on Herman Adair because he was relatively short and the only person (on an unusually warm September night) wearing long sleeves. Everyone else was wearing t-shirts and tank tops. Officer Squires testified he had encountered Adair many times before that night and immediately recognized him as not only someone who did not live at the Tracy Drive Apartments, but also the only person wearing clothing resembling the 911 caller's description. Officer Squires further testified that he knew Adair had a prior felony conviction. He added that each of his prior encounters with Adair had been respectful.

         When Officer Squires first approached, Adair was standing near the middle of the larger group. As Officer Squires got closer, however, Adair began to move away, weaving through the group and putting other people in between himself and the officer. Officer Squires believed Adair was trying to evade and avoid him. He eventually got close enough to Adair to see a conspicuous, large bulge in the front pocket of his jeans. Seeing the bulge raised even more concern because, as Officer Squires testified, he recalled the 911 caller reported seeing a gun protruding from a man's pocket.

         Officer Squires reacted by asking Adair to step away from the group. He then asked for permission to search him. When Adair declined, Officer Squires told him that, due to the circumstances, he was going to pat him down for weapons. The ensuing frisk revealed a hard object that Officer Squires immediately recognized as a gun in Adair's front pocket. The firearm was a black and loaded Sig Sauer P23O handgun. Officer Squires testified that he knew at the time of the stop and pat down that Adair's prior felony conviction prevented him from possessing a firearm.

         The government charged Adair with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). Adair moved to suppress the firearm, arguing that Officer Squires lacked the reasonable suspicion required to stop and search him. The district court denied the motion. Adair then pleaded guilty, reserving the ...

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