In 1997, Officer Kimmons Gray, with the Hernando Police Department, was patrolling downtown Hernando after midnight. While patrolling, Gray passed the Brahms building and noticed an automobile parked in a lot next to the building. Officers had been asked to keep loiterers off the lot.
Gray approached the vehicle and noticed someone sitting in the passenger seat and someone walking toward the car. The officer said he recognized Rogaster Shannon as the person walking toward the vehicle. Gray asked Shannon what they were doing there, and Shannon replied that he was going to go get a hotel room.
Gray testified he patted Shannon down for weapons, but since he was unable to feel under Shannon’s coat, he asked Shannon to empty his pockets. When Shannon emptied his pockets, he placed a “straight shooter” on the hood. A straight shooter is a metal tube with steel wool in one end that facilitates the smoking of illegal substances.
Gray also noticed that Shannon dropped something on the ground near him. Gray waited for backup to arrive and asked Officer Shane Ellis to see what was dropped. Ellis found what appeared to be a rock of crack cocaine. Shannon testified in his own behalf. He denied that the crack cocaine was his, but rather, since several people are known to walk through the area everyday, someone else might have dropped the crack cocaine.
Shannon was convicted of possession of a cocaine and sentenced to three years of probation. On appeal, he argued the search was illegal. MCOA affirmed.
MSC said in Singletary v. State, 318 So. 2d 873 (Miss. 1975), police activity in preventing crime, detecting violations, making identifications, and in apprehending criminals may be divided into three types of action:
(1) Voluntary conversation: An officer may approach a person for the purpose of engaging in a voluntary conversation no matter what facts are known to the officer since it involves no force and no detention of the person interviewed;
(2) Investigative stop and temporary detention: To stop and temporarily detain is not an arrest, and the cases hold that given reasonable circumstances an officer may stop and detain a person to resolve an ambiguous situation without having sufficient knowledge to justify an arrest;
(3) Arrest: An arrest may be made only when the officer has probable cause.
The situation in this case falls either under the first or second type of action. Here, Gray received information to be on the lookout for loiterers around the Brahms building. On February 9, 1997, after midnight, Gray spotted a vehicle parked in a driveway behind the building. As Gray testified the incident occurred, “in the middle of the night, this is something that we look at as possibly suspicious when you have someone sitting in a car on a vacant lot behind a business establishment in the wee house of the morning.”
Gray further testified that for safety, “I patted him down for weapons. Well, Mr. Shannon had a coat on, and there are times when you pat someone down, if they have a coat on, that you could possibly miss something. So I asked Mr. Shannon . . .’If you don’t mind, could you empty the contents of your pockets on the trunk of the car there?'”
Police officers have the authority to detain a person without actually arresting him for investigatory purposes. Given reasonable circumstances an officer may stop and detain a person to resolve an ambiguous situation without having sufficient knowledge to justify an arrest. A reasonable suspicion is all that is required to effectuate a stop and frisk.
When a reasonable investigatory stop is conducted, an officer is authorized to “conduct a weapons search limited in scope” to the discovery of concealed weapons.
We hold that the seizure of the cocaine was the result of a valid investigative stop. The seized cocaine was not the fruit of an illegal arrest. What emerged was a temporary, investigatory stop, or a voluntary conversation, that was reasonable under the circumstances. Therefore, we hold that the trial court did not err in admitting into evidence the crack cocaine.