In 2015, two men approached the gun counter of K and S Outdoors (K&S) in Columbus, Mississippi. One asked to look at a pistol, and the other asked to look at a long gun. The K&S clerk, Chad Fortner, handed one of the men a pistol and the other a Ruger- SR-762 rifle. Both men then attempted to run from the store with the firearms.
The man with the rifle successfully fled. Fortner tackled and secured the other man before the man could exit K&S. The stolen rifle was a .308 caliber Ruger-SR-762 rifle with a collapsible stock and a twenty-round magazine that retailed for $1,699. K&S identified the gun by its serial number.
Investigator Timothy Jenkins with the Columbus Police Department recovered a maroon Mississippi State hoodie, camouflage pants, and a blue toboggan about a block and a half east of K&S. This was the clothing of the man who stole the rifle as seen in store security video. Jenkins also interviewed the man who was earlier restrained while attempting to flee K&S.
Based on the interview, the investigation led the Columbus police to 20th Street North. Approximately an hour and a half to two hours after the shoplifting incident at K&S, as Columbus police approached 1215 20th Street North, Shamor Billups came out of a shed at that address. Columbus police ordered Billups to the ground, and he complied.
Jenkins learned the 1215 20th Street North property was owned by Billups’s aunt, Connie Billups. Connie gave Jenkins consent to search her outbuildings. A rifle was found upright in the front corner of the shed covered in a shirt. The shed was otherwise empty except for a bicycle and the stolen rifle.
Billups was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to ten years (he was acquitted of felony shoplifting). On appeal, he argued that he was not in possession of the rifle. MCOA affirmed.
In Gavin, we said that without evidence of actual or exclusive possession, and without evidence that Gavin is the owner of the premises, the State must prove some competent evidence connecting Gavin with the firearm.
In Curry v State, 249 So. 2d 414 (Miss. 1971), the MSC said what constitutes a sufficient external relationship between the defendant and the object to complete the concept of constructive possession is a question which is not susceptible of a specific rule.
In Peden, this court found sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of constructive possession because, while he was found in a motel room rented by another, Peden was within arm’s reach of a bag of crack cocaine.
In Lewis, this court found that Lewis had constructive possession of a handgun found under the driver’s seat of the car that Lewis was driving even though the gun was not in Lewis’s actual physical possession.
In this case, Billups exited a shed; the shed was nearly empty; a rifle was just inside the shed’s door; Billups was the only person in the shed; and Billups was within reach of the rifle. Thus, there was sufficient evidence to convict Billups of constructive possession of the rifle.