CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON AUGUST 27, 2018
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
PENNINGTON COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE MATTHEW M.
MATTHEW W. TEMPLAR Assistant Attorney General Pierre, South
Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.
GREY Grey & Eisenbraun Law Rapid City, South Dakota
Attorneys for defendant and appellant.
Nathan Chase was convicted of second-degree murder. He
appeals the circuit court's denial of his motion to
suppress evidence obtained as a result of an investigatory
stop. We affirm.
and Procedural History
On January 23, 2017, at about 7:50 p.m., law enforcement
responded to a call from a Rapid City motel regarding an
assault. Officers discovered the body of Jeremy Little in the
entrance to one of the motel rooms. He had been fatally
stabbed in the face and neck, and there was substantial blood
at the scene. Captain Tony Harrison of the Pennington County
Sheriff's Office reviewed security footage of the hallway
outside the room in which Little was found. He observed six
people entering and leaving the room that night. Five of the
individuals were identified and excluded as suspects. The
sixth, an unidentified man, became the murder suspect. From
the footage, Harrison observed that the suspect was a male of
average weight and height wearing a black stocking cap, dark
pants, dark shoes, and a tan Carhartt jacket over a black
After completing the initial investigation around 2:00 a.m.,
Harrison returned to the motel to search nearby dumpsters for
the murder weapon. At about 3:15 a.m., he observed a man
walking on the sidewalk about two blocks from the motel.
Harrison believed the man resembled the suspect from the
security footage based on height and weight. Harrison also
noticed he was wearing a tan Carhartt jacket similar to the
coat worn by the suspect. Yet, in contrast, the pedestrian
wore his jacket over a white hooded sweatshirt rather than a
black one. Additionally, his shoes were white rather than
dark, and he had on different colored pants than those worn
by the suspect in the security footage. It was a cold evening
and no one else was moving on the streets.
Based on the man's similar appearance-primarily his build
and the Carhartt jacket-and his proximity to the crime scene,
Harrison decided to investigate. He activated his emergency
lights and stopped his unmarked vehicle next to the man,
later identified as Nathan Chase. Harrison exited the car,
introduced himself as a law enforcement officer, and informed
Chase that he wanted to ask about an "event" at the
motel. Chase agreed to a search of his person, and Harrison
found a bloody knife in Chase's pocket. Chase was taken
into custody and questioned. The blood on the knife was later
matched to Little's DNA.
Chase was indicted for second-degree murder. Prior to trial,
he moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the
stop. The circuit court denied the motion, ruling that
Harrison had reasonable suspicion to initiate the
investigatory stop. A jury found Chase guilty. He appeals the
circuit court's decision. He does not challenge the
circuit court's findings of fact. He only challenges the
court's legal conclusion that Harrison had reasonable
suspicion for the stop.
"The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution
and Article VI, § 11 of the South Dakota Constitution
protect individuals from unreasonable searches and
seizures." State v. Walter, 2015 S.D. 37,
¶ 7, 864 N.W.2d 779, 782. Although it is preferable for
law enforcement to obtain a warrant before conducting a
search or seizure, a warrant is not necessary for less
invasive intrusions, such as an investigatory stop.
Id. (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20,
88 S.Ct. 1868, 1879, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968)). "[W]hen a
person is subject to an 'investigative detention'
rather than a full-blown custodial arrest, the officer need
only have reasonable suspicion for the detention rather than
the probable cause typically required." Id.
(quoting State v. De La Rosa, 2003 S.D. 18, ¶
7, 657 N.W.2d 683, 686). That is because "[a] brief stop
of a suspicious individual, in order to determine his
identity or to maintain the status quo momentarily while
obtaining more information, may be most reasonable in light
of the facts known to the officer at the time."
State v. Stanley, 2017 S.D. 32, ¶ 13, 896
N.W.2d 669, 675 (quoting Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S.
143, 146, 92 S.Ct. 1921, 1923, 32 L.Ed.2d 612 (1972)). Thus,
"if police have a reasonable suspicion, grounded in
specific and articulable facts, that a person they encounter
was involved in or is wanted in connection with a completed
felony, then a Terry stop may be made to investigate
that suspicion." United States v. Hensley, 469
U.S. 221, 229, 105 S.Ct. 675, 680, 83 L.Ed.2d 604 (1985). The
question whether an officer has reasonable suspicion is
viewed under the totality of the circumstances.
Stanley, 2017 S.D. 32, ¶ 13, 896 N.W.2d at 675.
Chase argues Harrison only had a "sixth sense"
about Chase being the perpetrator. He contends Harrison's
testimony at the suppression hearing confirms the stop was
based on a mere "hunch." However, Harrison's
testimony shows he relied on his twenty years of experience
as a law enforcement officer in determining whether to stop
an individual based upon all the information known to him at
the time. It is well settled that law enforcement
"officers [may] draw on their own experience and
specialized training to make inferences from and deductions
about the cumulative information available to them that
'might well elude an untrained ...