Court upholds arrest by officers responding to Shotspotter

MADSON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the conviction of a Milwaukee man who was arrested by authorities while responding to a report on Gunshot Location Technology, ruling that officers should only use gunshot technology. Beyond that there was reasonable doubt to stop him. ,

The court ruled unanimously against Avon Rondell Nimer, who was taken into police custody in 2019 after officers spotted him walking about 100 feet from the site of a Shotspotter report near his home in Milwaukee.

Nimmer argued that the officers had no reason to stop him, arguing that Shotspotter detected the bullets but did not identify the shooters and that he was just looking for his girlfriend.

A state appeals court agreed with him, but the Supreme Court overturned that decision. Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote for the majority that the authorities had reasonable suspicion to detain Nimmer partly because Shotspotter is credible, he was in the area when the technology detected the bullets and he was hiding a weapon. .

Nimmer’s appellate attorney, Mark Rosen, disagreed with the decision.

“I think they got it wrong, so I’m going to leave it at that,” he said.

The use of shotspotter technology in policing has been attacked by some as problematic and potentially misleading. ShotSpotter, a network of surveillance microphones used to detect gunshots, is powered by an algorithm that is protected by its creators as a trade secret. An AP investigation earlier this year identified serious flaws in using Shotspotter as supporting evidence for prosecutors.

The AP investigation found the system could miss live gunfire just below its microphone, or misclassify the sound of fireworks or cars backfiring as gunshots. Forensic reports prepared by employees of ShotSpotter have been used in court to falsely claim that a defendant fired at police, or to provide a dubious count of the number of shots allegedly fired by defendants . In many cases, judges have rejected the evidence.

When Milwaukee officials responded to an alert outside Nimmar’s residence in June 2019, Nimmar was the only person less than a minute after four bullets were reported, according to court records.

Officers approached Nimmar, noting that he was speeding away from their squad car. In response to their approach, Nimmar reached to his left and turned his body away from the authorities.

One of the arresting officers testified that he believed Nimmar’s behavior showed that he was hiding a weapon.

Upon stopping and searching Nimmar, he told officers that he had a handcuff attached to his waistband that said, “The gun is on my waist, brother.” Due to a previous felony for possession of THC with intent to distribute, Nimmer was forbidden from possessing a gun.

Nimmar told the court that he was on the road to search for his girlfriend, who had left the house shortly before hearing gunshots outside.

His trial attorney sought to suppress handgun evidence, arguing the officers had neither reasonable suspicion nor probable cause to stop and search for Nimmer. The offer was rejected, and Nimmar was sentenced to two years in prison and two years of extended surveillance for possession of a firearm by a criminal.

The trial court ruled that timing was the key to the officers’ reasonable suspicion, stating that “anyone who encountered them within a minute or two of receiving the alert should be investigated as to whether they had been involved in one of the alleged shots.” -were within two blocks.”

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, citing several cases as precedent for their opinion that Nimar’s presence in an area where criminal activity was not sufficient to detain him. The appeals court also ruled that Nimmar’s behavior at the scene was insufficient to cause reasonable suspicion.

Justice Rebecca Dallett, along with two other judges, wrote a covenant that agreed that the police had reasonable doubts to stop Nimmer, but argued that the majority’s opinion relied too much on the Shotspotter alert.

“No matter how accurate the Shotspotter is or how quickly officers respond to the Shotspotter alert, it takes a dragnet to justify warrantless searches of all people discovered by police near the most recently reported gunshots.” Cannot be used as such,” Dalet wrote.


Harm Venhuizen is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on secret issues. Follow Loss on Twitter.

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