from the United States District Court for the District of
Colorado (D.C. No. 1:16-CR-00201-RBJ-1)
Lee, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Virginia L. Grady,
Federal Public Defender with him on the briefs) office of the
Federal Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, appearing for the
C. Murphy, Assistant United States Attorney (Robert C.
Troyer, Acting United States Attorney with him on the brief)
Office of the United States Attorney, Denver, Colorado,
appearing for the appellee.
BRISCOE, EBEL, and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges.
2016, two members of the Aurora Police Department pulled over
a car in which Ajohntae Hammond was riding as the passenger
in a busy intersection in Aurora, Colorado. The question we
must decide in this appeal is whether the officers had
reasonable suspicion to believe Hammond was armed and
dangerous to justify frisking him for weapons. The pat-down
they conducted revealed a gun in Hammond's pocket and
Hammond was charged with being a felon in possession of a
firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Based on
information the officers gleaned from the department's
Police Information Management System ("PIMS") prior
to the pat-down that connected Hammond and the car to gang
activity and weapons possession, along with the officers'
observation that Hammond was wearing gang colors, we hold
that the officers possessed reasonable suspicion to justify
the pat-down search. Therefore, exercising jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we AFFIRM the district
court's decision denying Hammond's motion to suppress
approximately 9:15 PM on the evening of March 16, 2016, when
Officer Randall Ricks and his partner, Officer Jonathan
McCants, pulled up behind a black Chevrolet Monte Carlo
stopped at a red light. Noticing that the Monte Carlo had a
brake light out, Officer Ricks ran a search for the
vehicle's license plate in the PIMS. From this search
Officer Ricks learned that the car had been seized in
connection with a weapons possession case in mid-February of
that year, and that an individual named Ajohntae Hammond had
been arrested as part of that case. From there, Officer Ricks
ran a PIMS search for Hammond, which revealed that in
addition to his arrest for the weapons possession case
mentioned in connection to the Monte Carlo, Hammond had also
been listed as a suspect in a separate weapons possession
case, and had been flagged in the system as a documented gang
member. At this point Officer McCants turned on his lights
and sirens, and pulled over the Monte Carlo on the basis of
the broken brake light.
Monte Carlo pulled into a parking lot just past the
intersection of South Chambers and East Alameda in Aurora,
Colorado. At the district court Officer Ricks agreed that
this was a "major" and "well-lit"
intersection with several commercial businesses and apartment
complexes, and that there was traffic traveling in both
directions at the time of the stop. Aplt. App. Vol. III at
15-16. He added that while "the area itself" is one
he paid "particular attention to" as a high-crime
neighborhood, the intersection itself was not a high-crime
area. Id. at 16. In fact the Aurora Police
Department building is located at one corner of the
Ricks and McCants then approached the Monte Carlo. While
Officer McCants began to interact with the driver, Officer
Ricks-with Hammond's name and criminal history in
mind-knocked on the passenger window and asked that it be
rolled down. The passenger, later identified as Hammond,
opened the door and explained that the window did not roll
down. Officer Ricks then asked for identification, and after
first asking why Officer Ricks needed to see his
identification, Hammond handed Ricks his ID, which confirmed
that he was, in fact, Ajohntae Hammond.
at this point that Officer Ricks "decided that Mr.
Hammond would be asked to step out of the vehicle and would
be pat [sic] down for weapons." Id. at 11.
According to Officer Ricks, he did so
[b]ased on the fact that I had, prior to the stop, learned
that Mr. Hammond had been arrested once for weapons
possession, listed as an offender suspect in one case and was
listed as a gang member. And through my training and
experience, I know that gang members are often known to carry
weapons on or about their person.
Id. at 11-12. Officer Ricks also noted that Hammond
was wearing "clothing commonly worn by members of the
Crip street gang, " namely a "[g]ray and blue LA
Dodgers hat, gray pants and gray shoes and a blue belt."
Id. at 11.
first, Hammond objected to Officer Ricks's request for
him to exit the vehicle. He ultimately, however, calmly
complied with the order when Officer McCants
"interjected and told him, because he was a documented
gang member, we wanted to make sure he didn't have any
weapons on him." Id. at 13. As Hammond exited
the Monte Carlo he continued to ask the officers questions,
but was not aggressive in his tone. After Officer McCants
joined him on the passenger side of the car, Officer Ricks
conducted a pat-down search of Hammond, eventually
discovering a loaded .32 caliber Beretta Tomcat in the front
pocket of his sweatshirt.
securing the weapon and placing Mr. Hammond under arrest, the
officers confirmed that Hammond had a prior felony
conviction. On this basis the government charged Hammond with
one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
moved to suppress the gun as fruit of an illegal search.
Specifically he argued that Officers Ricks and McCants did
not have reasonable suspicion that he was armed and dangerous
when they ordered him out of the car and conducted their
pat-down search. After a suppression hearing the district
court denied the motion, and ...