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LU Ref# CAI00003
November 30, 2020
Author Ref. No: Vol. 25 No. 13
LU Ref# CAI00003
November 30, 2020
Author Ref. No:   Vol. 25 No. 13

Robert C Phillips
Deputy District Attorney, Retired

“Be good to your spouse. Remember: Right now, he/she could poison you and it would be counted as a Covid-19 death.” (Unknown)
Detentions for Investigation; Bulges in a Person’s Clothing
COURT CASE REFERENCE: United States v. Bontemps (9th Cir. 2020) 977 F.3rd 909

A bulge in a person’s clothing that may in a police officer’s training and experience be a concealed firearm, is sufficient reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is in illegal possession of a firearm, justifying that person’s detention for investigation.
Vallejo Police Department Detectives Jarrett Tonn and Kevin Barreto were patrolling in an unmarked police SUV (presumably while in uniform) on the afternoon of April 18, 2018, when they observed defendant Tamaran Bontemps and three others walking down the street on Robles Way in Vallejo; a mixed residential-commercial area.  As they drove past the group, Detective Barreto noticed that one of the men (later identified as Quinton Mills) appeared to be carrying a concealed handgun in the pouch pocket of this sweatshirt.  The detectives hung a U-turn, going by them again to get a closer look.  As they did so, Detective Tonn—from the passenger seat—could “very clearly” see that defendant—walking in front of Mills—had what the detective described as a “very large and obvious bulge in Mr. Bontemps' sweatshirt on his left side above his waist” that the officer recognized from his “training and experience as a police officer” to be consistent with a firearm.  “In particular, (defendant), who was wearing a light gray sweatshirt that was partially zipped up, ‘had a very obvious bulge on his left side just above the waist area, kind of halfway maybe between his waist and his left armpit.’ Due to this ‘very large and obvious bulge in (defendant’s) sweatshirt on his left side above his waist,’ as well as Detective Tonn's training and his encounters with ‘numerous people with firearms,’ Tonn believed (defendant) was carrying a concealed gun.”  So, making another U-turn, the officers pulled up behind the four men, exited their vehicle, and, with their firearms unholstered but held at their sides, ordered the group to sit on the curb.  All four complied.  As Detective Barreto was dealing with Mills (who was in fact found to be in possession of a loaded 9mm Glock handgun), Detective Tonn turned his attention to defendant who, at that point, had become argumentative, yelling at the officers and at passing cars.  The detectives called for backup.  Detective Tonn “deployed his Taser” on defendant in order to subdue him while ordering everyone on their stomachs.  Defendant was handcuffed and searched.  The bulge was found to be a .40 caliber Glock 22 handgun concealed in a shoulder holster. Defendant was determined to be on felony probation for carrying a loaded firearm in pubic with an outstanding warrant for a probation violation.  He was charged federally with being a felon in possession of a firearm (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)).  After the federal district court judge denied his motion to suppress the firearm, defendant pled guilty and was sentenced to 4 years and 9 months in prison.  He appealed.