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Cooper v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

August 28, 2014

TAZARIUS COOPER a/k/a T.C.
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/17/2012.

Page 1165

WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. MARGARET CAREY-MCCRAY, TRIAL JUDGE.

FOR APPELLANT: PHILLIP BROADHEAD, OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: ELLIOTT GEORGE FLAGGS.

DICKINSON, PRESIDING JUSTICE. WALLER, C.J., LAMAR, KITCHENS, CHANDLER, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR. PIERCE, J., CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. RANDOLPH, P.J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

Page 1166

DICKINSON, PRESIDING JUSTICE

¶1. Based on a citizen's complaint that " young men . . . young black men . . . are standing out on the sidewalks, corners, selling drugs" at the 500 block of Union Street in Greenville, Mississippi, police proceeded to that area, where they spotted Tazarius Cooper, a young, black male. The police officer turned on his blue lights, exited his vehicle, and attempted to conduct an investigatory stop by ordering Cooper to " come here and let me talk to you." Before the officers could restrain him in any way, Cooper ran. The officers gave chase, following Cooper into a home, where Cooper abandoned a bag containing a blue substance that tested positive for the drug known as ecstasy. The trial court denied Cooper's motion to suppress the evidence, and Cooper was convicted. We find that the citizen's complaint was insufficient to establish a reasonable suspicion of Cooper, or to conduct a Terry stop.[1] But because Cooper was not stopped, and because Cooper lacked standing to challenge the search of a home which did not belong to him, we affirm the trial court's decision.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. Joe Edney, an investigator for the Special Operations Unit of the Greenville Police Department, testified that Lieutenant Redmond[2] received a complaint from an anonymous caller that " young men, young black men, are standing out on the sidewalks, corners, selling drugs" at the 500 block of Union Street in Greenville, Mississippi. Edney was not informed of the anonymous caller's identity, merely that it was a call from a " concerned citizen." At Redmond's direction, Edney and Investigator Charlton Smith[3] proceeded to Union Street in the unit's unmarked, black Ford F-250 truck.

¶3. Upon arrival at Union Street, Edney and Smith found two men standing " in the sidewalk area" in front of a house located on the 500 block. Edney recognized Cooper from prior narcotics calls.

Page 1167

The officers activated the truck's blue lights and exited the vehicle, and Edney commanded Cooper to " come here and let me talk to you." Cooper, however, began running toward the house, forced the door open, and continued inside. Edney chased Cooper. The other man -- Cooper's friend, Dennis Wright -- immediately dropped to his knees and was detained by Smith.

¶4. Edney testified that many of the structures on this block were rundown and dilapidated. In fact, he described this particular house as " very decrepit, [with] holes in the walls, holes in the floor, unlivable." As Edney went up the stairs to enter the house in pursuit of Cooper, he saw Cooper throw a plastic baggie containing a blue substance into a hole in the wall inside the house. According to Edney, " you could see into the living room to where the drywall had either fallen off the wall or that somebody had intentionally took it down, but at that time I saw him throwing something in there."

¶5. Edney entered the house and detained Cooper. He then retrieved the discarded bag from the hole in the wall and discovered that it contained twenty-one blue pills with dolphin imprints, which field-tested positive for ecstasy.

¶6. Edney arrested Cooper and charged him with possession with intent to distribute. Based upon Edney's hearing testimony and argument from counsel, the trial court denied Cooper's motion to suppress and ordered that " all evidence discovered during the search is admissible at trial." The trial court did not support its conclusion with analysis on the record or in the written order.

¶7. Cooper was convicted, and the Court of Appeals affirmed on appeal, finding that the anonymous tip was sufficient for Edney to make the initial investigatory stop.[4] Analyzing the tip's reliability, the court found that the " anonymous tip contained sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation" because it " was based on fresh, first-hand information witnessed by the anonymous caller, who gave details about the race and sex of the suspects along with the criminal activity going on at the particular location on Union Street" and because the block was known for heavy drug-trafficking activity.[5] According to the Court of Appeals, these facts, together with Edney's recognition of Cooper from prior drug-related complaints after arriving to investigate the tip, " corroborated the anonymous tip and gave the officers reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop." [6] Further, the court found both exigent circumstances and probable cause to make the warrantless entry into the home, arrest Cooper, and seize the bag of ecstasy.[7]

¶8. Cooper filed a petition for writ of certiorari with this Court, arguing that the Court of Appeals " incorrectly applied the law concerning 'reasonable suspicion' based on an anonymous tip sufficient to warrant an investigatory stop." Because the Court of Appeals reached the correct result, but for the wrong reasons, we granted Cooper's petition.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶9. We employ a mixed standard of review for Fourth ...


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