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United States of America v. Alfred Tucker

August 23, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF - APPELLEE
v.
ALFRED TUCKER DEFENDANT - APPELLANT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF - APPELLEE
v.
ALFRED TUCKER DEFENDANT - APPELLANT



Appeals from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska - Omaha

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gruender, Circuit Judge.

Submitted: April 18, 2012

Before GRUENDER, BENTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

Alfred Tucker was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, simultaneously resulting in a revocation of his supervised release from a previous conviction. He now appeals his conviction and sentences on various grounds. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Tucker was arrested in Omaha, Nebraska after a traffic stop conducted by two Omaha police officers, Jodi Sautter and Anna Doyle. Officers Sautter and Doyle were on patrol when they were flagged down by an Omaha Housing Authority Officer, Dan Hagen. Sautter knew Hagen and had worked with him on a number of prior occasions. Hagen told the two police officers that gunshots had just been fired from the Ford Crown Victoria that he was following. The two police officers immediately pulled the Crown Victoria over. Tucker, who was seated in the front passenger seat, exited the Crown Victoria, repeatedly failed to comply with the officers' commands, and struggled with them, leading them to tase him a number of times and then arrest him. In a search of the Crown Victoria conducted incident to Tucker's arrest, the officers found a handgun and an ammunition box under the front passenger seat. Tucker's fingerprint was later found inside the ammunition box.

Tucker was charged by grand jury indictment with the knowing possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a prior felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g), 924(a)(2). Tucker filed a motion to suppress evidence from the traffic stop and subsequent search of the Crown Victoria, which was denied by the district court,*fn1 and the case proceeded to trial. A jury found Tucker guilty, and the district court, determining him to be an armed career criminal in possession of a firearm pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), sentenced him to 188 months' imprisonment and a consecutive 24 months' imprisonment for violating supervised release conditions related to Tucker's prior conviction.

Tucker now appeals on a number of grounds. He argues (1) that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress because Officers Sautter and Doyle lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the Crown Victoria; (2) that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (3) that the district court erred in admitting testimony by Officer Hagen as to statements made by onlookers who witnessed the shooting because the testimony was unduly prejudicial; and (4) that the district court made various sentencing errors.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Suppress

"We affirm a denial of a motion to suppress unless the district court's decision 'is unsupported by substantial evidence, based on an erroneous interpretation of applicable law, or, based on the entire record, it is clear a mistake was made.'" United States v. Bay, 662 F.3d 1033, 1035 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting United States v. Annis, 446 F.3d 852, 855 (8th Cir. 2006)). We review the district court's findings of fact for clear error and its legal conclusions de novo. Id. Police are allowed to stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if they have a "reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity." United States v. Sawyer, 588 F.3d 548, 553 (8th Cir. 2009); see Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968). The reasonableness of an officer's suspicion is assessed "in light of the facts known to the officer at the time" of the stop. Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 146 (1972). Tucker claims that Officers Sautter and Doyle had no reasonable suspicion to justify the felony stop and that all evidence resulting from the stop, including the handgun and ammunition box, should be suppressed.

Officers Sautter and Doyle were flagged down by Officer Hagen, who told them that shots had just been fired from the Crown Victoria that they saw he was following. Officer Sautter had previously interacted professionally with Officer Hagen, who regularly worked with Omaha police officers. We have found reasonable suspicion on much less compelling facts. In United States v. Collins, for example, we found a Terry stop to have been proper when officers pulled over a car solely because it matched a description of a car that had been reported as having been involved in a robbery. 532 F.2d 79, 81 (8th Cir. 1976). We also have held security guards to be especially reliable tipsters in the context of assessing the reasonableness of a police officer's suspicion, especially when such guards work directly with police in the course of their duties. United States v. Robinson, 670 F.3d 874, 876-77 (8th Cir. 2012). A direct, in-person identification of a car as having just been involved in a crime, especially one made by a housing authority officer who had previously worked with one of the investigating officers, is sufficient to give rise to the necessary "reasonable, articulable suspicion" to justify a Terry stop.

B. Sufficiency of the Evidence

We review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence de novo, resolving all evidentiary conflicts in favor of, and accepting all reasonable inferences that support, the jury's verdict. United ...


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