Spokane — The conviction was upheld for a Moses Lake man found with a firearm in his vehicle following a shooting in Moses Lake on New Year's Day 2012.
The State Court of Appeals, Division III, upheld Juan Carlos Rodriguez's conviction of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, according to court documents released Tuesday.
About 3 a.m. New Year's Day, Moses Lake police received a report of a fight with gunshots fired at 906 W. Fourth Ave. Dispatch told officers a vehicle left in the direction of the Hang Out Tavern but did not give a description of the vehicle or its occupants. An officer responded and found just one vehicle in the area, about six blocks from the shooting, according to court records.
The officer became suspicious and attempted to stop the vehicle, belonging to Rodriguez. Rodriguez reportedly did not immediately stop, and the officer continued to follow with the lights and siren on for about one mile before Rodriguez pulled over. During this time, the officer noticed the occupants in the vehicle moving as if they were trying to conceal objects or access the trunk.
Once all the occupants were out of the vehicle, the officer searched the vehicle for weapons for "safety reasons," finding a revolver under the driver's seat, according to court records.
Rodriguez's defense argued the officer "lacked reasonable suspicion to stop and investigate the car." The trial court and appeals court disagreed, concluding the stop was justified. The appeals court held the officer knew the shooter had fled in a vehicle headed in the same direction as Rodriguez's car and there were no other vehicles on the road.
"Under these circumstances, a brief stop to confirm suspicions was justifiable," according to court documents.
The appeal court agreed there was "articulable suspicion" justifying the traffic stop.