Frisk of suspect in DSHS lobby unlawful; no reason to believe suspect was armed or dangerous

State v. Setterstrom, Washington Supreme Court, Docket No. 79690-4, filed May 22, 2008

Mr. Setterstrom and another friend were in the lobby of Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), a government agency. Someone had complained to the police that a person was sleeping in the DSHS lobby and another was under the influence of drugs. Mr. Setterstrom was next to the person asleep on the lobby bench and was filling out a benefits application. Police approached Mr. Setterstrom, saw that he had filled out the application with his name, and asked if that was his name and how to spell it. Initially, he said yes, but then he changed his mind and said it was for his friend. When his friend awoke, police asked what his friend’s real name was, and Mr. Setterstrom blurted out a different name. Police believed Mr. Setterstrom was under the influence of methamphetamine because his behavior was fidgety, but didn’t stand up or put his hands in his pockets.

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Seizure of “suspicious” suspect at bus shelter unlawful; no evidence of criminal activity

State v. Gatewood, Washington Supreme Court, Docket No. 79992-0, filed May 1, 2008

Shortly after midnight, police in a patrol vehicle drove past Mr. Gatewood seated at a bus shelter on Rainier Avenue in Seattle and saw that his eyes got big when he saw them. Police observed Mr. Gatewood twist his body as though he were trying to hide something. Police circled back to the bus shelter to contact Mr. Gatewood, but he had left the bus shelter and was walking away. The police car followed Mr. Gatewood, pulled in front of him blocking his path, and an officer told him, “Stop. I want to talk to you.” Mr. Gatewood turned and walked away. When he got to some bushes, he bent over, reached into his waistband, took something out, and threw it in the bushes. Police ordered him to show his hands. He complied and was handcuffed. The police found a loaded handgun in the bushes. Police also found marijuana on Mr. Gatewood and found cocaine back at the bus shelter.

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