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Police had reasonable suspicion to detain Scruggs for positive ID by victim

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Facts

Roberto Perez was cleaning his car in his carport in 2015 when two men robbed him at gunpoint and stole his wallet and cell phone. Perez called 911 and gave a detailed description of both men. Corinth PD (CPD) then put out a BOLO for the two men. Captain Ben Gann of the CPD received an anonymous tip that there had been a robbery and that one of the suspects could be found in the cul-de-sac at Combs Court.

Gann passed this tip along to Detective Rogers, who went to 811B Pierce Street, which is in the cul-de-sac of Combs Court. Rogers knocked on the door and a male subject came to the door that fit the description of one of the suspects. Taderrius Scruggs identified himself and agreed to come outside with Rogers. The victim, Perez, was then driven by and positively identified Scruggs as one of the robbers.

Scruggs was arrested and questioned by Rogers and he confessed to the robbery. The other suspect was also captured, pled guilty, and testified for the State. Scruggs was found guilty of armed robbery and sentenced to 40 years. On appeal, Scruggs argued that detaining him outside his house for an identification based on an anonymous tip lacked reasonable suspicion. MCOA affirmed his conviction.

Analysis

A person may be ‘detained’ short of an actual arrest for investigatory purposes. As the Mississippi Supreme Court stated in Dies the Fourth Amendment does not require police who lack the information necessary for probable cause to simply shrug their shoulders and allow a crime or a criminal escape to occur. Rather, it allows for investigatory stops to encourage the police to pursue their reasonable suspicions.

Police officers may detain a person for a brief, investigatory stop consistent with the Fourth Amendment when the officers have ‘reasonable suspicion, grounded in specific and articulable facts’ that allow the officers to conclude the suspect is wanted in connection with criminal behavior.

Reasonable suspicion may be proved by either an officer’s personal observation (this includes information from other law enforcement officers) or an informant’s tip. An informant’s tip may provide reasonable suspicion if accompanied by some indication of reliability; for example, reliability may be shown from the officer’s independent investigation of the informant’s information.

We recognize that a tip by an unnamed informant of undisclosed reliability standing alone will rarely establish the requisite level of suspicion necessary to justify an investigative detention. But an anonymous tip “standing alone” is not the situation in this case. Rather, the anonymous tip that Captain Gann passed along to Rogers about Scruggs’s location was corroborated by the victim’s Perez’s description.

When Rogers went to the location given by the anonymous tipster, the person at that location, Scruggs, matched Perez’s description, thereby establishing an independent ground for reasonable suspicion. In short, Rogers’s “reasonable suspicion” to detain Scruggs was “grounded in specific and articulable facts” that allowed him to conclude Scruggs was wanted in connection with criminal behavior.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO152503.pdf