The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Manzanet-Daniels, over a dissent, determined the police did not have reasonable suspicion defendant had committed a crime and the level-three stop of the defendant was not justified. The suppression motion was granted and the indictment dismissed. The street stop was based upon a vague description of a robbery suspect which did not match the defendant. The fact that the defendant acted “suspiciously” when the police followed him was not enough to validate the stop:
The officers did not have reasonable suspicion to conduct a level three forcible stop and detention by ordering defendant to put his hands against a wall, grabbing his arms, and forcing him to the ground. Defendant matched the description only in that he was a black male. … That a defendant matches a vague, general description, such as the one the complainant gave of the perpetrator, is insufficient to give rise to reasonable suspicion, particularly where, as here, key parts of the description do not match … . …
Although defendant was walking at a fast pace and hiding his face from the officers, such equivocal behavior was just as susceptible to an innocent interpretation and may not increase the level of suspicion so as to justify a forcible stop … . Walking at a quick pace is not considered flight … . Defendant was under no obligation to walk more slowly or to show his face to the officers since he had a right to be let alone and refuse to respond to police inquiry … . Defendant’s desire not to make eye contact with the officers was equally consistent with an innocent desire as a black male to avoid interactions with the police. People v Thorne, 2022 NY Slip Op 03696, First Dept 6-7-22
Practice Point: Here the police conducted a level-three street stop based upon a vague description of a robbery suspect which the defendant did not match. The stop was not justified by defendant’s hiding his face and walking quickly when the police followed him.