United States v. Tuggle ( 2008 )


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  •            IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
                        FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT United States Court of Appeals
                                                       Fifth Circuit
    
                                                                                FILED
                                                                               July 14, 2008
    
                                           No. 07-30814                   Charles R. Fulbruge III
                                                                                  Clerk
    
    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
    
                                                       Plaintiff - Appellant
    v.
    
    BOBBY TUGGLE, JR
    
                                                       Defendant - Appellee
    
    
    
                       Appeal from the United States District Court
                     for the Middle District of Louisiana, Baton Rouge
                                 USDC No. 3:07-CR-50-1
    
    
    Before KING, WIENER, and ELROD, Circuit Judges.
    PER CURIAM:*
           Defendant-Appellee Bobby Tuggle, Jr., was charged with possessing a
    firearm as a convicted felon. The government appeals the district court’s
    granting of Tuggle’s motion to suppress the seized firearm. We reverse and
    remand.
                                                  I.
           On March 7, 2007, Bobby Tuggle, Jr., was indicted on one count of being
    a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On April
    
    
           *
             Pursuant to 5TH CIR. R. 47.5, the court has determined that this opinion should not
    be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5TH CIR.
    R. 47.5.4.
                                     No. 07-30814
    
    19, 2007, Tuggle filed a motion to suppress the firearm, arguing that it was the
    fruit of an unconstitutional search and seizure. A hearing on the motion was
    held on August 21, 2007. Officer Timothy Wilkinson was the only witness to
    testify at the hearing. He testified to the following events, which, according to
    the government, establish reasonable suspicion for the Terry stop and frisk of
    Tuggle. See Terry v. Ohio, 
    392 U.S. 1
     (1968).
          At the time of the stop, Officer Wilkinson, an officer in the auto-theft
    division of the Baton Rouge Police Department (“BRPD”), had been investigating
    an auto-theft ring at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport where fifty to sixty
    vehicles had been stolen. On January 4, 2006, it was reported that a couple of
    the stolen vehicles, as well as the suspects involved, were located at 2915
    Chippewa Street, and Wilkinson proceeded to that address. Wilkinson had
    specific information that the boyfriend of the woman living at the Chippewa
    residence was involved in the auto-theft ring. Although he had the boyfriend’s
    name, Wilkinson did not have a physical description.
          The Chippewa residence, according to Wilkinson, was located in a high
    crime area known for narcotics and street crimes. Specifically, Wilkinson
    testified that several years prior to the auto-theft investigation, he had been
    involved in narcotics arrests on Chippewa, and that more recently he had
    examined police reports indicating narcotics activity there. Wilkinson was also
    aware of a shooting that occurred on the particular block involved in this case.
    However, he “couldn’t tell [defense counsel] for sure” whether narcotics arrests
    had been made in the last two years on Chippewa Street.
          When Wilkinson arrived on Chippewa, he made an initial pass by the
    address in an unmarked police vehicle. He noticed two vehicles parked in the
    yard of the residence, “even [with], but towards the back part of the house.”
    Wilkinson copied down the license plate number of one of the vehicles visible
    from the road, ran the plate, and confirmed that the vehicle was stolen. He then
    
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                                      No. 07-30814
    
    notified the BRPD Uniform Patrol Division and requested assistance in
    returning to the residence to investigate and recover the stolen vehicle.
          Within approximately ten to fifteen minutes, Wilkinson, accompanied by
    other BRPD officers, returned to the Chippewa residence where he had
    identified the stolen vehicle. BRPD Officer Steven Parks, who was traveling in
    a marked BRPD car, drove up to the residence behind Wilkinson. Additional
    BRPD officers in marked units arrived upon the scene within a “matter of
    seconds.” As Wilkinson and Parks approached the residence, they observed a car
    stopped in the middle of the roadway. Its motor was running and a “black male,”
    later identified as Tuggle, was leaning into its driver’s side window. As the
    officers pulled up, the vehicle “sped away.” At that point, Tuggle turned and
    “briskly walked away” from the officers and toward the stolen vehicle parked in
    the yard of the Chippewa residence. According to Wilkinson, based on his
    experience and the criminal nature of the neighborhood, Tuggle’s posture and
    behavior at the car were consistent with a street-level narcotics transaction.
    Further, because Tuggle subsequently approached the stolen vehicle, Wilkinson
    testified that he inferred that Tuggle might be one of the suspects involved in the
    auto-theft ring.
          According to Wilkinson, Tuggle traveled about ten to fifteen feet away
    from the street and into the yard of the residence and was approximately fifteen
    feet away from the stolen vehicle when the officers called out to him to come
    back to their location. Yielding to their command, Tuggle turned around and
    headed back to the street. Wilkinson testified that when Tuggle reached the
    officers, he was “very nervous” and “shaking uncontrollably.” The officers
    conducted a patdown and discovered that Tuggle was carrying a .38 caliber
    revolver in his back left pocket. Tuggle was placed under arrest for illegally
    carrying a weapon. Thereafter, the officers recovered both vehicles in the yard,
    after confirming the second was also stolen.
    
    
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                                     No. 07-30814
    
          Before making its decision on the motion to suppress, the district court
    asked Wilkinson whether Chippewa Street had sidewalks. Wilkinson replied
    that it did not. The district court then surmised that anyone walking down the
    side of the street of the Chippewa residence would necessarily be walking toward
    the stolen vehicle. Wilkinson responded that a person simply walking down the
    street would not need to travel approximately fifteen feet into the yard of the
    Chippewa residence and come within fifteen feet of the stolen vehicle, as Tuggle
    allegedly had. The district court was also curious about what happened with the
    car and driver who had “sped away.” Wilkinson had testified that BRPD Officer
    Gewalt went after the vehicle, and the district court was interested in knowing
    what came of the stop. It found the fact that Wilkinson did not question Gewalt
    about his stop of the vehicle odd, stating, “If you thought you had a drug deal
    why didn’t you talk to one of the officers that followed up on the drug deal?”
    Wilkinson replied, “Well [Gewalt] came back to our location within just a couple
    of minutes[,] and there was nothing to the stop that he had made.”
          At the conclusion of the hearing, the district court found that the police
    lacked reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop and frisk of Tuggle on the date in
    question. First, discussing the “supposed drug deal,” the district court stated:
                [T]he reasonable suspicion on that point is that [Tuggle]
                was standing at or leaning in the driver’s window of a
                vehicle that was stopped in the middle of the street.
                And when the police pulled up the vehicle pulled off,
                sped off and [Tuggle] walked away in a [manner] that
                was described as a brisk walk. None of those facts
                taken alone or together would provide reasonable
                suspicion that a drug offense was either occurring or
                about to occur. After the officers pulled up there was
                testimony that one of the officers pursued and stopped
                the car that had sped away. But Officer Wilkinson
                couldn’t say what happened after that because
                apparently nothing was told to him by the officer who
                stopped the vehicle. It strikes me as strange that if you
                think there’s a drug deal going on, and the car allegedly
    
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                                      No. 07-30814
    
                involved in the drug deal is stopped, seems to me
                somebody ought to say something about what happened
                after the car was stopped, why there wasn’t an arrest of
                the driver. Or if there was an arrest of the driver, what
                was found, and that sort of thing. There’s none of that
                in this case.
          The district court next discussed the “other articulable reason for the
    stop”—the fact that Tuggle briskly walked away from the officers and toward the
    stolen vehicle. The district court concluded that this evidence similarly failed
    to establish reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity was afoot. In
    making that determination, the district court noted that walking toward a stolen
    vehicle is not a crime in itself, that there was no evidence connecting Tuggle to
    the stolen vehicle, and that the cars were parked in a yard apparently open to
    the street so that “anybody walking in that area was going to walk either
    towards or in the area of those stolen vehicles.” The district court then turned
    to the legality of the frisk and concluded that “there’s no evidence at all to
    indicate that the officers had a reasonable belief that they were dealing with an
    armed individual prior to the time that the defendant was stopped.”
    Accordingly, the district court granted Tuggle’s motion to suppress the seized
    firearm. Thereafter, the government filed a timely notice of appeal.
                                            II.
          “In reviewing a district court’s ruling on a motion to suppress, we review
    questions of law de novo, and accept the trial court’s factual findings unless they
    are clearly erroneous.” United States v. Castro, 
    166 F.3d 728
    , 731 (5th Cir. 1999)
    (en banc). “In reviewing findings of fact, we view the evidence in the light most
    favorable to the party prevailing below,” which in this case is the defendant,
    Tuggle. United States v. Lopez-Moreno, 
    420 F.3d 420
    , 429 (5th Cir. 2005) (citing
    United States v. Shelton, 
    337 F.3d 529
    , 532 (5th Cir. 2003)). “If this review leads
    us to the ‘definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed[,]’ then
    the district court’s factual finding must be deemed clearly erroneous.” Id. at
    
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                                      No. 07-30814
    
    429–30 (quoting Payne v. United States, 
    289 F.3d 377
    , 381 (5th Cir. 2002)). Also,
    the district court’s determination of whether the facts provided reasonable
    suspicion is a conclusion of law reviewed de novo. Id. at 430 (citing Ornelas v.
    United States, 
    517 U.S. 690
    , 699 (1996)); see also United States v. Holloway, 
    962 F.2d 451
    , 459 (5th Cir. 1992). In evaluating the reasonableness of an officer’s
    actions, “due weight” must be given to the facts and inferences viewed “in light
    of [the officer’s] experience.” United States. v. Michelletti, 
    13 F.3d 838
    , 841 (5th
    Cir. 1994) (en banc) (quoting Terry, 392 U.S. at 27).
                                            III.
          The government challenges the district court’s decision to grant the motion
    to suppress, arguing first that the district court erred by addressing and
    rejecting Wilkinson’s observations separately, rather than considering the
    “totality of the circumstances of the stop” in its analysis. The government next
    argues that the district court erred by focusing on Wilkinson’s failure to inquire
    about the fate of the vehicle that sped off as a basis for discounting Wilkinson’s
    observations. The government submits that the failure to learn about, or
    present testimony of, any evidence recovered after the stop does not negate
    Wilkinson’s suspicions of narcotics trafficking based on the facts observed at the
    time of the stop. Further, contrary to the district court’s conclusion that no facts
    were presented supporting Wilkinson’s belief that Tuggle could be a member of
    the auto-theft operation, the government points to Tuggle’s hurried retreat
    toward the stolen car. And, finally, the government avers that the officers
    reasonably believed that Tuggle was armed and dangerous based in part on their
    suspicion of narcotics trafficking since “weapons are tools of the trade of
    narcotics traffickers.”
          In response, Tuggle asserts that the district court’s decision to suppress
    the firearm evidence was proper considering that the government only proved
    that there was a stolen vehicle in the area where Tuggle was located, and that
    
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                                      No. 07-30814
    
    Tuggle was walking in that direction.         Tuggle maintains that this was
    insufficient to warrant reasonable suspicion that Tuggle was, or was about to be,
    engaged in criminal activity. Tuggle also notes that although Wilkinson testified
    to the suspected narcotics trafficking at the hearing, he did not include his
    suspicions in his police report. According to Tuggle, this failure undermined
    Wilkinson’s credibility with the district court. Tuggle further maintains that the
    district court correctly found that there was simply no evidence on the issue
    whether the officers had reasonable suspicion to believe that Tuggle was armed
    and dangerous.
           The legality of police investigatory stops is tested in two parts. United
    States v. Brigham, 
    382 F.3d 500
    , 506 (5th Cir. 2004) (en banc). We “first
    examine whether the officer’s action was justified at its inception, and then
    inquire whether the officer’s subsequent actions were reasonably related in scope
    to the circumstances that justified the stop.” Id. (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at
    19–20). Pursuant to Terry, “[p]olice officers may briefly detain individuals on the
    street, even though there is no probable cause to arrest them, if they have a
    reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. The Fourth Amendment
    requires only some minimum level of objective justification for the officers’
    actions—but more than a hunch—measured in light of the totality of the
    circumstances.”    Michelletti, 13 F.3d at 840 (en banc) (citations omitted).
    “Reasonable suspicion must be supported by particular and articulable facts,
    which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably
    warrant an intrusion.” Id. (citation omitted).
          Of course, “the policeman making a reasonable investigatory stop should
    not be denied the opportunity to protect himself from attack by a hostile
    suspect.” Adams v. Williams, 
    407 U.S. 143
    , 146 (1972). The Court in Terry thus
    held that “[w]hen an officer is justified in believing that the individual whose
    suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is armed and presently
    
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                                       No. 07-30814
    
    dangerous to the officer or to others,” he may conduct a limited protective search
    for concealed weapons. Terry, 392 U.S. at 24. An officer need not be certain that
    an individual is armed; the issue is whether a reasonably prudent man could
    believe, based on “specific and articulable facts,” that his safety or that of others
    is in danger. Michelletti, 13 F.3d at 840–41 (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 27).
           “In assessing the reasonableness of an officer’s actions, it is imperative
    that the facts be judged against an objective standard: would the facts available
    to the officer at the moment of the seizure or the search warrant a man of
    reasonable caution in the belief that the action taken was appropriate?” United
    States v. Rideau, 
    969 F.2d 1572
    , 1574 (5th Cir. 1992) (en banc) (quoting Terry,
    392 U.S. at 22) (internal quotation marks omitted). This inquiry does not
    depend on the “officer’s state of mind, or his stated justification for his actions.”
    Id. (citing Maryland v. Macon, 
    472 U.S. 463
    , 470–71 (1985)). Instead, the
    Fourth Amendment is satisfied “[a]s long as all the facts and circumstances,
    viewed objectively, support the officer’s decisions.” Id. In short, “[w]e must
    attempt to put ourselves in the shoes of a reasonable police officer as he or she
    approaches a given situation and assesses the likelihood of danger in a
    particular context.” Id.
                                             A.
          In finding that the officers’ initial stop of Tuggle was not justified by
    reasonable suspicion, the district court erroneously split the evidence into two
    discrete events—the suspected drug deal and the quick retreat toward the stolen
    vehicle. The correct approach under Terry is to objectively examine the “totality
    of the circumstances.” And, although the standards of reasonableness are “not
    readily . . . reduced to a neat set of legal rules,” Ornelas, 517 U.S. at 695–96
    (citation omitted), some factors considered germane to a reasonable suspicion
    analysis include: whether the area where the stop occurred was a high crime
    area or one “of expected criminal activity,” Illinois v. Wardlow, 
    528 U.S. 119
    , 124
    
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                                      No. 07-30814
    
    (2000); whether the individual engaged in “unprovoked flight upon noticing the
    police,” id.; and whether the individual looked nervous or made furtive gestures
    or suspicious movements, United States v. Watson, 
    953 F.2d 895
    , 897 (5th Cir.
    1992). For example, the defendant in Wardlow fled upon seeing police cars
    converge in an area known for having heavy drug activity. 528 U.S. at 122. In
    analyzing whether the officers had reasonable suspicion to pursue the defendant,
    the Supreme Court noted that while a person’s presence in a high crime area is
    not enough, standing alone, to create reasonable suspicion, it is among the
    relevant contextual factors that may be considered. Id. at 124. Likewise,
    “nervous, evasive behavior” is appropriate to a reasonable suspicion analysis,
    explained the Court.      Id.   “Headlong flight—wherever it occurs—is the
    consummate act of evasion: It is not necessarily indicative of wrongdoing, but
    it is certainly suggestive of such.” Id.
          At the suppression hearing in this case, Wilkinson, who had been a
    member of BRPD for twenty years—ten years in auto-theft, eight years in
    Uniform Patrol, and two years in General Detectives Division—testified that he
    was cognizant of the criminal characteristics of the Chippewa neighborhood
    when he proceeded to the residence to investigate the auto-theft ring. The
    district court was unwilling to credit this testimony, stating, “Where is my
    evidence that this was a high crime area? The officer was asked about that and
    the best he could [ ] tell me [was that] a couple of years ago, there was some drug
    deals, as far as he knew.” The district court was referring to Wilkinson’s
    admission on cross-examination that he had no definitive information regarding
    narcotics arrests made on that block within the past two years. In focusing on
    this admission, the district court disregarded Wilkinson’s earlier testimony
    about the neighborhood’s criminal reputation. In particular, Wilkinson testified
    that he was familiar with the criminality of the area, as he had been with BRPD
    for twenty years; that he had examined police reports detailing recent criminal
    
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                                         No. 07-30814
    
    activity in the area before driving out to the Chippewa residence; that he had
    made prior arrests for narcotics activities on Chippewa Street itself; and that he
    was aware of a shooting on the block where the residence was located. Looking
    at the evidence on the whole, even in the light most favorable to Tuggle, we
    conclude that the district court clearly erred in finding that Wilkinson provided
    no evidence that this was a high crime neighborhood. Moreover, rather than
    ignoring the criminal nature of the neighborhood in its Terry analysis, the
    district court should have recognized, at a minimum, that Wilkinson was aware
    that the neighborhood was once regarded as “high crime.”1 See, e.g., United
    States v. Beck, 
    602 F.2d 726
    , 729 (5th Cir. 1979) (considering that the officer was
    conscious of the neighborhood’s high-crime characteristics along with the fact
    that “there was no evidence of recent crimes in the neighborhood” in conducting
    a totality of the circumstances analysis for reasonable suspicion). Still, as
    previously stated, mere presence in a high crime area, without more, will not
    create reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop and frisk. See Brown v. Texas, 
    443 U.S. 47
    , 52 (1979).
          Wilkinson also testified that after calling for back-up and returning to the
    residence with marked police vehicles, he noticed a car stopped with its engine
    running in front of the residence, obstructing his path down Chippewa Street.
    Tuggle was leaning into the driver’s side window at that time. Wilkinson
    averred that Tuggle’s posture beside the stopped car was consistent with a
    street-level drug transaction. Although the district court accepted Wilkinson’s
    factual depiction of the scene, it discounted the testimony regarding a narcotics
    transaction because Wilkinson failed to follow up with Gewalt, the officer who
    pursued the vehicle that fled the scene. The government argues that such an
    
    
          1
            We note that even if Wilkinson had been aware that arrests in the area had recently
    decreased, his suspicions of continuing criminal activity there were confirmed when he
    determined that one of the cars parked at the residence was in fact stolen.
    
                                                10
                                        No. 07-30814
    
    inquiry is not legally relevant because a finding of reasonable suspicion does not
    depend on facts revealed only after a stop has occurred. See, e.g., United States
    v. Espinoza-Seanez, 
    862 F.2d 526
    , 533 (5th Cir. 1988) (explaining that
    information gathered after a stop cannot be used to justify the stop); United
    States v. Frisbie, 
    550 F.2d 335
    , 338 (5th Cir. 1977) (“An observation made after
    and caused by a stop cannot be bootstrapped into grounds for reasonable
    suspicion warranting the stop.”). However, the district court was not attempting
    to justify the stop by determining whether the vehicle was in fact cited for a
    narcotics offense. Instead, the district court found it less likely that Wilkinson
    actually believed a narcotics transaction was being conducted based on his
    failure to talk to Gewalt and discover the fate of the vehicle that sped away.
          Nonetheless, the district court’s analysis on this point is flawed for two
    reasons. First, there was no need for Wilkinson to ask Gewalt what happened
    in light of Wilkinson’s testimony that Gewalt returned to the Chippewa location
    within “just a couple of minutes” and that, as he understood, “there was nothing
    to the stop that [Gewalt] had made.” Second, and more importantly, what
    Wilkinson subjectively thought is not the relevant inquiry—reasonable suspicion
    must be judged against an objective standard. See Rideau, 969 F.2d at 1574 (en
    banc) (“The officer’s state of mind, or his stated justification for his actions, is not
    the focus of our inquiry.”) (emphasis added). “As long as all the facts and
    circumstances, viewed objectively, support the officer’s decisions, the Fourth
    Amendment is satisfied.” Id. Because we conclude that the other specific and
    articulable facts presented, viewed objectively and as a whole, created enough
    reasonable suspicion for the stop, it is unnecessary for us to determine whether
    an experienced officer, such as Wilkinson, would have reasonably suspected
    
    
    
    
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                                           No. 07-30814
    
    criminal activity, or more specifically a narcotics transaction, solely from
    Tuggle’s interaction with the driver of the stopped car.2
           On that note, we turn our attention to Wilkinson’s testimony that upon the
    officers’ arrival in marked police cruisers, the car running idle in the roadway
    “sped off,” and Tuggle similarly turned and briskly walked into the yard of the
    residence. Again, the district court accepted the validity of these observations,
    but suggested in its Terry analysis that because Tuggle did not run from the
    police, it was unreasonable for the officers to believe that he was intentionally
    evading them. However, the defendant does not have to run away for his
    behavior to be considered unprovoked flight. See, e.g., United States v. Gordon,
    
    231 F.3d 750
    , 757 (11th Cir. 2000) (“Obviously the speed of the suspect’s
    movements may be relevant in the totality of the circumstances, but the fact that
    the suspect walked very quickly, as opposed to ran, away from the spot where
    he was sighted by police does not itself change the analysis where it is evident
    from the circumstances that he was attempting to flee upon sighting the
    police.”). Indeed, the fact that the vehicle had just sped off makes it objectively
    more reasonable to assume that Tuggle was also trying to flee from the police
    when he immediately thereafter turned and briskly walked away from the
    officers. Further, even if we were to accept Tuggle’s argument that he was not
    “in flight,” the flight of the vehicle, into which Tuggle had been leaning, provides
    support for the officers’ suspicion that he was involved in some kind of
    wrongdoing. Cf. United States v. Newman, 
    472 F.3d 233
    , 237 (5th Cir. 2006)
    (“While the fact that a man dashed out of the house, by itself, is not enough to
    create probable cause to search the house, . . . it is among the relevant
    contextual considerations in the probable cause analysis.”); see also United
    
           2
               Because we find it unnecessary to consider the officers’ inference of narcotics
    trafficking, we do not address Tuggle’s argument that because Wilkinson did not include the
    purported narcotics transaction in his police report, his testimony on this subject should not
    be credited.
    
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                                      No. 07-30814
    
    States v. Miles, 
    275 F.3d 1078
    , No. 00-11425, 
    2001 WL 1465241
    , at *3 (5th Cir.
    2001) (unpublished) (“Although [the defendant] was not the one who fled, the
    flight of a person standing near his automobile provided further reason to
    support the Officers’ suspicion of [the defendant’s] involvement.”).
          That suspicion was further heightened by Tuggle’s next move—traveling
    ten to fifteen feet up into the yard of the Chippewa residence, directly toward the
    stolen car. The district court concluded otherwise based on a clearly erroneous
    view of the facts presented. Specifically, the district court presumed that
    anybody walking in that area would be approaching the stolen car due to the
    lack of sidewalks on Chippewa Street. That finding is inconsistent with the only
    evidence provided on that subject at the hearing. Wilkinson unambiguously
    indicated that Tuggle proceeded into the yard toward the parked stolen car and
    not parallel to the street in the following colloquy:
    
                Q      Wouldn’t anybody walking down that street have
                       to walk towards those vehicles if they were on
                       that side of the street?
    
                A      No, they wouldn’t have to walk up into the yard.
    
                Q      And how far into the yard did [Tuggle] go?
    
                A      Ten or fifteen feet
    
                Q      How close was that to the [stolen] car?
    
                A      About fifteen feet. The cars were about thirty
                       feet from the roadway.
    
    From this observation alone, the officers reasonably could have inferred that
    Tuggle was the Chippewa resident’s boyfriend—the boyfriend suspected in the
    auto-theft ring and of whom the officers had no physical description.
    
    
    
                                             13
                                            No. 07-30814
    
           Consequently, we disagree with the district court’s analysis and conclude
    that the totality of the circumstances—(1) that the officers were conscious of the
    high crime characteristics of the neighborhood in question, including a shooting
    on that particular block; (2) that the Chippewa residence had been identified as
    the storage location for cars stolen from the airport; (3) that the unidentified
    boyfriend of the woman living at the residence was a suspect in that auto-theft
    operation; (4) that one of the cars parked in the yard of the Chippewa residence
    was confirmed stolen; (5) that Tuggle was observed leaning into the driver’s side
    window of an idle vehicle blocking the roadway in front of the residence; (6) that
    said vehicle sped away, as if in flight, on the police officers’ arrival; (7) that
    Tuggle correspondingly walked briskly away from the officers; and (8) that
    Tuggle proceeded ten to fifteen feet toward the stolen car in the yard—would
    warrant an officer of reasonable caution in his belief that criminal activity was
    afoot, and that the initial action taken, commanding Tuggle to return to the
    street for questioning, was appropriate.3
                                                   B.
           Our next task is to assess the reasonableness of the officers’ subsequent
    frisk of Tuggle. On that point, the district court found “no evidence at all to
    indicate that the officers had a reasonable belief that they were dealing with an
    armed individual.” We disagree. As Wilkinson testified, the officers proceeded
    
           3
              Tuggle relies on United States v. Williams, 11 F. App’x 842, 843 (9th Cir. 2001)
    (unpublished), for the proposition that police are not entitled under the guise of Terry to stop
    virtually any person who happens to be in the vicinity of a crime scene. In that case, the officer
    stopped the defendant “purportedly because he was within a block of a shooting.” Id. The
    officer did not have a description of the shooting suspect, other than the fact that he fled the
    scene on a bicycle, and the Ninth Circuit noted that the defendant was merely jogging at the
    time. Id. Thus, the Williams court determined that there was no reasonable suspicion for a
    Terry stop. Id. Tuggle’s case is distinguishable. Tuggle was located directly in front of the
    Chippewa residence, or crime scene, not a block away; he tried to hurriedly retreat upon the
    officers’ arrival; and, further, he walked directly up into the yard of the Chippewa residence
    toward the stolen vehicle that the officers were there to recover. Tuggle was not merely in the
    vicinity of another’s wrongdoing. Rather, his actions raised suspicion that he was the one
    engaged in the wrongdoing. Thus, this authority is unavailing.
    
                                                   14
                                       No. 07-30814
    
    to the Chippewa residence to investigate an auto-theft ring that was suspected
    of stealing fifty to sixty vehicles from the airport. In conjunction with the
    totality of the other factors, the officers here could have reasonably deduced from
    such a large-scale operation, which successfully lifted numerous vehicles from
    a secure airport, that those involved were likely sophisticated and dangerous
    criminals. Thus, when Tuggle’s conduct reasonably suggested that he might be
    part of that auto-theft ring, the officers were justified in fearing for their safety.
    Further, their fear was enhanced, rather than dispelled, by Tuggle’s “very
    nervous” and “shak[y]” demeanor as he returned to the street for questioning.
    On this evidence, we conclude that a limited protective search for concealed
    weapons was supported by a reasonable belief that Tuggle might be armed and
    presently dangerous. See Michelletti, 13 F.3d at 840–41 (“An officer need not be
    certain that an individual is armed; the issue is whether a reasonably prudent
    man could believe, based on ‘specific and articulable facts,’ that his safety or that
    of others is in danger.” (quoting Terry, 392 U.S. at 27) (emphasis added)).
          Tuggle argues that his “mere propinquity to others independently
    suspected of criminal activity” does not, without more, give rise to reasonable
    suspicion to search his person. See United States v. Cole, 
    628 F.2d 897
    , 899 (5th
    Cir. 1980) (internal quotation marks omitted). We do not disagree, but note that
    here there were additional reasonable grounds which supported a frisk. The
    officers did not rely solely on Tuggle’s presence in front of the Chippewa
    residence as the basis for the search, but also on their observations of the car
    fleeing when they arrived on the scene, and Tuggle similarly attempting to evade
    them by heading ten to fifteen feet up into the yard of the residence, toward the
    stolen vehicle. These circumstances, combined with Tuggle’s nervous and shaky
    demeanor, objectively provided enough reasonable suspicion for the officers to
    assure their protection and conduct a patdown for weapons.
    
    
    
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          Moreover, even though each case involving the reasonableness of a Terry
    stop and frisk turns on its own facts, Michelletti, 13 F.3d at 844, an examination
    of two of our en banc cases, Rideau and Michelletti, as well as Terry itself,
    further bolsters our decision here since their facts establish no greater degree of
    suspicious behavior than we have found in Tuggle’s case.          In Rideau, the
    defendant, who the frisking officer suspected was drunk, was standing in the
    road at night in a high crime area. 969 F.2d at 1573. When the officer
    approached and asked the defendant’s name, he appeared nervous and
    “critically, backed away.” Id. at 1575. This court determined that it was not
    unreasonable under these circumstances for the officer to have feared that the
    defendant was moving back to give himself time and space to draw a weapon.
    Id. Accordingly, we concluded that it was not then unreasonable for the officer
    to pat the defendant’s front pants pocket to determine whether he had a gun.
    Id.
          Likewise, in Michelletti, the defendant who was frisked had barged out of
    the back door of a bar at closing time with his right hand tucked in his pants
    pocket and his left hand cupping a can of beer and approached the officer and a
    group of individuals the officer was about to question. 13 F.3d at 839–40. Even
    though the officer had testified during the suppression hearing that before the
    patdown, he had no specific reason to believe the defendant was armed, the en
    banc court still held that the officer’s frisk was supported by a reasonable
    concern      for   danger   because   the    circumstances     surrounding     the
    encounter—closing time at a bar, the size of the group of onlookers, and the
    possibility that the defendant was inebriated—signaled a need for caution. Id.
    at 842–43.
          And finally, in Terry itself, the police officer had merely observed, during
    daylight hours, two individuals pacing back and forth in front of a store, peering
    into the window and periodically conferring. 392 U.S. at 5–6, 22–23. In light of
    
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                                             No. 07-30814
    
    the officer’s experience, the Supreme Court determined that it was reasonable
    for him to infer that the men were contemplating a daylight robbery, which
    would likely involve the use of weapons. Id. at 27–28. Thus, the Court held that
    the limited frisk for weapons, even after the men had departed the original
    scene, did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 28–29. Terry, Rideau, and
    Michelletti reveal the courts’ willingness to defer to police officers’ seasoned
    judgments and to permit them to “tak[e] reasonable steps to ensure their safety
    when they have legitimately detained an individual.” Rideau, 969 F.2d at 1575;
    see also Holloway, 962 F.2d at 459 (“Factors that ordinarily constitute innocent
    behavior may provide a composite picture sufficient to raise reasonable suspicion
    in the minds of experienced officers . . . .”) (footnote omitted). Because we cannot
    say that the articulable facts in this case are sufficiently less suspicious than
    those recounted above, we conclude that the patdown for weapons here did not
    violate the Fourth Amendment’s proscription on unreasonable searches.4
                                                   IV.
           For the foregoing reasons, we REVERSE the district court’s order
    suppressing the seized firearm and REMAND for further proceedings.
    
    
    
    
           4
             The government also asserts that the officers’ inference that Tuggle was conducting
    a street-level narcotics transaction supports their reasonable belief that Tuggle might have
    been armed and dangerous. See Ornelas, 517 U.S. at 700 (“[Supreme Court] cases have
    recognized that a police officer may draw inferences based on his own experience in deciding
    whether probable cause exists.”) (citing as an example United States v. Ortiz, 
    422 U.S. 891
    , 897
    (1975)); see also, e.g., United States v. Coleman, 
    969 F.2d 126
    , 131 n.20 (5th Cir. 1992)
    (“Weapons and violence are frequently associated with drug transactions, of course.”); United
    States v. Dixon, 
    132 F.3d 192
    , 197 (5th Cir. 1997) (“This Circuit has explicitly recognized that
    firearms are tools of the trade of those engaged in illegal drug activities . . . .” (citations and
    internal quotation marks omitted)). Because we conclude that the other articulable facts and
    inferences legitimately justify the officers’ patdown, it is unnecessary to address this assertion.
    
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