When officers go to a known drug house to execute an arrest warrant, a person (Darrell) exits a car in the driveway and walks towards the back of the house.  One officer ordered Darrell to stop. In response, Darrell picked up the pace and continued to walk towards the back of the house. The officer ordered him to stop a second time and this time Darrell complied. Darrell had a brown paper bag in his hand. The officer took the bag and found it contained whiskey (which was contraband in that “dry” county). While one officer went to execute the warrant, the other officer noticed Darrell had two knives hanging from his belt. The officer took the knives then did a pat-down frisk that resulted in the discovery of a firearm in Darrell’s pocket. Darrell, a convicted felon, was arrested for being in possession of a firearm.

Darrell filed a motion to suppress, arguing that “law enforcement did not possess adequate reasonable suspicion to stop and subsequently search him.” Noting the “somewhat abstract” nature of the reasonable suspicion standard, the court first looked at the seizure of Darrell. Darrell was seized when he yielded to the second demand that he stop. Citing extensively from the Supreme Court decision in Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119 (2000), the court noted that flight alone could not establish reasonable suspicion. Likewise, presence in a known crime area could not, by itself, establish reasonable suspicion. But in Wardlow, the court determined that the two factors together could establish reasonable suspicion. In the present case, the court struggled whether simply walking away constituted “flight” for the purposes of this analysis. Noting that the officers reasonably feared that Darrell might draw a weapon or warn the target of their arrest warrant if he were permitted to withdraw from their view, the Fifth Circuit held that the officer had the requisite reasonable suspicion to make a brief investigatory stop.

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