Boston police officers did nothing wrong when they arrested a teenager on gun charges near Ruggles station in 2015 because they had ample reason to suspect he'd been involved in a criminal act, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today.
The lawyer for the teen, not named because of his age, had argued the gun an officer found near where he'd seen the kid bend over during a chase should be tossed as evidence because police had no probable cause he'd been involved in anything criminal and so should never have stopped him. A judge disagreed and, in a jury-waived trial, found him delinquent for illegal possession of a gun and ammunition and sentenced him to DYS custody until he turned 21.
At issue in the teen's appeal was exactly when he was "seized," or detained by police. In Massachusetts, somebody can be "seized" even before they are physically restrained, under the theory that if "a reasonable person" in the same situation felt he could not leave, then he was detained, or seized.
His lawyer argued he'd been seized when when an officer first went up to him and an apparent pal - whom police wanted to arrest because part of his bail on shooting charges was to stay out of the Ruggles area - and said "Hey guys, can I talk to you for a sec?"
But the appeals court ruled the boy had not been seized at that point, because he was still free to walk away.
Unfortunately in his case, he didn't just walk away - he began to run, holding one arm to his side as if he were trying to keep a gun from falling down his pants. He then stopped and bent over a grill for a few seconds, then resumed running, but this time with both arms free and briefly managed to evade the cop, but then got caught by the cop and a detective not long after.
Even then, the teen was not "seized" until the officer tried to make sure he had the right person, by putting his hand on the teen's chest to see if his heart were racing, which it was, the court said.
By the time the officer "seized" him, by putting his hand on his chest, the teen had provided more than enough probable cause for officers to arrest him and go look for the gun - near the grill - and log that in as evidence against him, the court ruled, adding the probable-cause case was further bolstered because he was running in a neighborhood that had had plenty of other gun incidents and after he'd been spotted in the company of a person wanted for a possible bail violation.