FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND DIVISION [NOS.
60CR-16-4452 & 60CR-13-1430] HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER
CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE
Terrence Cain; and Thompson Law Firm, PLLC, by: Theodis N.
Thompson, Jr., for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rebecca Kane, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
M. GLOVER, Judge
Rounds appeals from the sentencing order entered by the
Pulaski County Circuit Court after a conditional plea of
guilty. He challenges the court's denial of his motion to
suppress. We reverse and remand.
November 26, 2016, Rounds was stopped by Little Rock police
officer, Sergeant Jeffrey Plunkett, and a firearm was found
in Rounds's possession. He had a prior felony conviction
from 2014 and was charged with unlawful possession of a
firearm. Rounds sought to suppress the firearm, taking the
position the stop was not justified, and therefore the
firearm Sergeant Plunkett discovered during the search
stemming from the stop should have been suppressed as the
fruit of an unconstitutional warrantless stop. Following a
hearing, the trial court denied Rounds's motion to
suppress. He then entered a conditional plea of guilty on May
22, 2017, and this appeal followed.
reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress evidence, the
appellate courts of our state conduct a de novo examination
based on the totality of the circumstances. MacKintrush
v. State, 2016 Ark. 14, 479 S.W.3d 14. We review
findings of historical facts for clear error and determine
whether those facts give rise to reasonable suspicion or
probable cause, giving due weight to inferences drawn by the
circuit court. Id. A finding is clearly erroneous,
even if there is evidence to support it, when after review of
the entire evidence, we are left with a definite and firm
conviction that the circuit court made a mistake.
Id. We defer to the superiority of the circuit court
to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses who testify at
the suppression hearing. Id.
without dispute that Sergeant Plunkett, who made the stop,
did not stop Rounds based on any traffic violation. Rather,
he stopped Rounds based on what Sergeant Plunkett was told by
fellow Little Rock police officer Irving Jackman. Our review
of the entire evidence convinces us the circuit court erred
in concluding the stop of Rounds's vehicle was based on
reasonable suspicion, and because the stop was not justified,
the evidence obtained as a result of the stop should have
suppression hearing, Officers Plunkett and Jackson testified.
Officer Jackman testified first. He stated he had responded
to a call on November 24, 2016, two days before the incident
leading to Rounds's arrest. According to Officer Jackman,
he heard shots on November 24 and responded to the area,
which was known for its criminal activity and violence.
Officer Jackman explained that when he made contact with
Rounds on the 24th, Rounds informed him he had just been
robbed. Officer Jackman testified that Rounds's personal
items were on the ground; Rounds "had frantic breathing,
and you could tell he had been in a high-stress
situation"; he encouraged Rounds to report the incident;
Rounds "advised it was fine"; and Rounds "did
not necessarily say he would take care of it, would handle
it, but [Rounds] did not want to make a report." Officer
Jackman further testified that while he was talking to
Rounds, "someone outside said he may be
'hot.'" Officer Jackman took those words to mean
Rounds had an outstanding warrant, but because he was
"the victim of this incident, it was not necessary to
run him, to find out if he had a warrant. We try not to
arrest victims of crime."
Jackman testified that two days later, on November 26, while
still assigned to the Violent Crime Reduction Task Force,
"[w]e were saturating the area for the influx of
shootings happening in the city. . . . We were saturating the
area in reference to a shots-fired call I believe, and once
we got to the area I [saw] a black sedan, two-door
Challenger, leaving the area. I was able to identify the
driver." He explained that the driver was Rounds, who
had been the victim of the November 24 robbery, "[a]nd
then two days later [November 26] we responded to that area
again in reference to some incidents that had been occurring
throughout the city, and when I made it to that location, I
[saw] Mr. Rounds's vehicle leaving the area."
Officer Jackman then testified he "notified the squad
that I was working on at that time that I had just [taken] a
report with [Rounds] a couple days prior, just take
precaution in case it was retaliation of some shots
surrounding- somebody start shooting at him again, letting
them know that he had just been shot at a few days
prior." He stated that once someone is shot at,
"most of the time a retaliation shooting is possible,
" and he provided that information to Sergeant Plunkett
(the officer who stopped Rounds).
cross-examination, Officer Jackman clarified his earlier
testimony, explaining, "I got a call about shots being
fired two days prior to your client being arrested. We [were]
saturating the areas in reference to the shots-fired calls.
That happened on November 24, 2016." Officer Jackman
explained that shots-fired calls happen on a regular basis
and are not abnormal. He further clarified that someone had
yelled out Rounds "was hot"; that the somebody was
another individual on the street; that he did not pay that
much attention to the other person because he (Jackman) was
talking to Rounds; that he was not interested in the warrant
then because he was more interested in finding the suspect
who had done the shooting; and that Rounds did not want to be
a victim in a report, so no further investigation was made of
the November 24 incident.
Jackman testified that when he passed Rounds in his vehicle
on November 26, he remembered him from the November 24
incident, and he remembered an unidentified person had yelled
Rounds was "hot." He explained that he informed the
officers on the task-force-monitor channel that he (Jackman)
was in the area; that he passed the vehicle of a person who
had been robbed in that area two days earlier (Rounds); that
he was going to continue to saturate the area; that someone
had yelled the robbery victim (Rounds) was "hot, "
and he might therefore have an active warrant; and that he
notified the officers to take precaution because Rounds was
leaving the area where he had been robbed two days before.
Officer Jackman stated that according to Sergeant Plunkett,
the sergeant stopped Rounds to investigate a warrant based on
Jackman's call. Officer Jackman explained he was telling
the other officers to take precaution because they were in
the area where Rounds had been robbed, and Rounds was leaving
the area where he had been the victim two days earlier, and
the police got calls about shots fired all the time. He
thought it was unusual that Rounds had been a victim in that
same area two days before and was leaving the same area two
days later. Officer Jackman acknowledged he did not know if
Rounds had family in the area. He said he advised the
officers to take precaution, and Sergeant Plunkett decided to
pull Rounds over based on the information he had given them,
i.e., that Rounds was leaving the location, had been robbed
two days earlier in the same location, and refused to make a
report because someone advised that he was "hot."
Officer Jackman stated that the only reason Sergeant Plunkett
stopped Rounds was because he (Jackman) had reported Rounds
might have a warrant. It is undisputed that Officer Jackman
never determined whether Rounds actually had a warrant on
November 24 or at any time before November 26.
Sergeant Plunkett testified at the suppression hearing. He
explained he was assigned to the Violent Criminal
Apprehension Team on November 26, 2016; the team's duties
included apprehending violent felons and responding to any
violent-crime problems in the city; on the night in question
they "were specifically assigned to target a few
geographical areas based on the shots fired and the shootings
that we had been having in the neighborhood"; there had
been an increase in shootings in that area; and he was
assigned to run a task force put together to suppress some of
Plunkett, who actually conducted the stop of Rounds's
vehicle, testified that on November 26, he received
"information from Officer Jackman with regard to Eric
Rounds [and] [b]ased on that information [he] conducted a
traffic stop on the black Dodge Charger." He explained
that he activated his blue lights; the Charger pulled to a
stop; and he illuminated the vehicle with his spotlight.
Sergeant Plunkett further testified that Rounds, in fact, did
not have an active warrant but that he "was at the scene