This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







State of Minnesota,





Mathew John Ellenson,




Filed May 23, 2006

Reversed and remanded

Klaphake, Judge


Polk County District Court

File No. K8-05-264



Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134; and


Greg Widseth, Polk County Attorney, Scott A. Buhler, Assistant County Attorney, 223 East Seventh Street, Suite 101, Crookston, MN  56716 (for appellant)


Mark D. Nyvold, 332 Minnesota Street, W1610, St. Paul, MN  55101 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Hudson, Judge, and Collins, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            The State of Minnesota challenges the district court’s grant of a pretrial suppression motion filed by respondent Matthew John Ellenson, who was arrested following the stop of a vehicle in which he was a passenger and was thereafter charged with third-degree controlled substance crime.  See Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subds. 2(6), 3(a) (2004) (possession of methamphetamine within a prohibited zone).  Because reasonable articulable suspicion existed to believe that the vehicle or its occupants were involved in criminal activity, police had a legitimate basis for an investigatory stop of the vehicle.  We therefore reverse the district court’s decision to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the stop and remand the matter for further proceedings.


            On February 28, 2005, at approximately 8:17 p.m., police in East Grand Forks stopped a vehicle in which respondent was a passenger, a 1982 gray Chevrolet Camaro with Minnesota license plate number AGA 135.  The stop was based solely on information gathered by Nathan Brouse, a Polk County Sheriff’s office investigator, who had been examining illegal drug use, namely methamphetamine (meth) activity, in the area.

            At the omnibus hearing, Brouse testified that he had gathered the following information during his investigation:

            1.         On January 13, 2005, Bodine Lecy was arrested in Grand Forks County, North Dakota, and what appeared to be a portable meth lab was discovered in his vehicle.  Two fire extinguishers were found that tested positive for anhydrous ammonia, a precursor material for meth production.  Lecy admitted that he had been manufacturing meth for awhile, that he had just been at Tommy Sundquist’s residence in Crookston, and that he had just stolen some anhydrous ammonia from a nurse tank and funneled it into a fire extinguisher.

            2.         On January 20, Brouse interviewed an individual who claimed that she had purchased meth from Tommy Sundquist and his father, Gary Sundquist, on a number of occasions in the past; the individual agreed to the interview as part of her plea agreement.

            2.         On February 7, Brouse conducted a probation search of Gary Sundquist’s residence in Crookston.  Although Gary Sundquist was not present at the time, other members of his family were, including his wife, daughter, and son.  Four vehicles were parked outside the residence, and items commonly used in meth manufacturing were observed inside the vehicles, including glass containers, a jug of muriatic acid, and meth paraphernalia.  The gray Camaro, however, was not one of the four vehicles.

            3.         On February 8, Gary Sundquist was arrested and placed in custody.  Police seized Sundquist’s cell phone and received a call from a person identifying himself as “Bo.”  The number for the incoming call was listed for Bodine Lecy.

            4.         On February 15, Lecy was seen driving the gray Camaro.  Lecy was observed on a Wal-Mart surveillance tape purchasing Sudafed on January 26; this purchase corresponded to a Wal-Mart receipt discovered at Gary Sundquist’s residence on February 7.  Brouse, who found it odd that Lecy was driving the Camaro, checked the status of Tommy Sundquist’s driver’s license and discovered that it had been revoked.

            5.         On February 18, Brouse saw the gray Camaro parked outside the residence of Enrique Flores in Mentor, MinnesotaFlores was a known meth manufacturer and was on probation for a drug offense at the time.  Brouse observed a fire extinguisher box and an aluminum foil box inside the vehicle.  Flores informed Brouse that Tommy Sundquist and Lecy had parked the vehicle at his residence for a few days and had borrowed his car.

            6.         On February 22, Gary Sundquist, who was still in custody, admitted that he was an addict who traded pills to Tommy Sundquist and Lecy for meth, and that the two men were manufacturing meth.

            7.         On February 22, an individual identified as Nathan Alan Hendricks claimed that he was at Gary Sundquist’s garage in January 2005.  Hendricks stated that he overheard Gary Sundquist, Tommy Sundquist, and Lecy discussing stealing anhydrous ammonia and storing it in a fire extinguisher.  Hendricks further claimed that Lecy had stated he had used the stored anhydrous ammonia for manufacturing meth.

            Based on this information, Brouse testified that he believed that the Camaro “could possibly have a mobile methamphetamine lab inside of it.”  He contacted police in East Grand Forks and requested that the Camaro be stopped, regardless of who was driving it.

            The Camaro was spotted and stopped approximately one week later.  The three occupants, one of whom was respondent, showed signs of illegal drug use, and had in their possession whiskey, drug paraphernalia, and numerous precursor items for meth production.  The three occupants were arrested and taken to the police station, where a small bag of marijuana and a small brown vial containing approximately one gram of meth were found hidden in respondent’s socks.

            Respondent was thereafter charged with third-degree controlled substance crime and moved to suppress the evidence on the following bases:  (1) police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the Camaro; (2) the scope and duration of the stop went beyond the initial reason for the stop; and (3) respondent was arrested without probable cause to believe that he had committed an offense which justified a custodial arrest.  At the conclusion of the omnibus hearing, respondent withdrew the latter two challenges.  Thus, the sole issue submitted to the district court was whether suppression was warranted because police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the Camaro.


            When reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress evidence, we may independently review the facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressing—or not suppressing—the evidence.  State v. Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d 353, 359 (Minn. 2004); State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999).  A district court’s determinations of probable cause and reasonable suspicion are subject to de novo review.  State v. Munson, 594 N.W.2d 128, 135 (Minn. 1999).

            Both the United States and Minnesota Constitutions prohibit “unreasonable searches and seizures.”  U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10.  Generally, a search or seizure conducted without a warrant is per se unreasonable.  State v. Burbach, 706 N.W.2d 484, 488 (Minn. 2005).  This rule, however, is “subject . . . to a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions.”  Id. (quotation omitted).  One of those exceptions applies when police reasonably believe that a crime has been or is about to be committed; in that case, police may conduct a limited stop of a person or vehicle to investigate further.  Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1884-85 (1968).

            “To conduct a limited stop for investigatory purposes, a so-called Terry stop, the police must have reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity.”  Munson, 594 N.W.2d at 136.  “To establish reasonable articulable suspicion, the police need only show that the stop was not the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity.”  Id. (quotation omitted).  Police assess the need for a stop “on the basis of all of the circumstances and draw[] inferences and make[] deductions . . . that might well elude an untrained person.”  In re Welfare of G.M., 560 N.W.2d 687, 691 (Minn. 1997) (quotation omitted); see State v. Gilchrist, 299 N.W.2d 913, 916 (Minn. 1980) (upholding stop to ask questions and receive identification based on “totality of circumstances,” which included information contained in police bulletin).  The information needed to support an investigative stop need not be based on the officer’s personal observations, and police may rely on information provided through police communications and the collective knowledge of the police force.  See State v. Conaway, 319 N.W.2d 35, 40 (Minn. 1982).

            Here, the information provided by Brouse established several links between the Camaro, Lecy, and Tommy Sundquist that provided police with reasonable suspicion to support an investigatory stop of the vehicle on February 28.  In particular, based on facts gathered from several different sources and from his own observations, Brouse believed that Lecy and Tommy Sundquist were manufacturing meth, that they were using vehicles as mobile meth labs, and that the Camaro was one of those vehicles.  Lecy was seen driving the Camaro on February 15, and the Camaro was seen parked outside a known meth manufacturer’s residence on February 18 with items used in the manufacture of meth seen inside.  While Brouse’s information might not have established probable cause for the warrantless arrest of either individual or for the warrantless search of the vehicle, we conclude that the information gathered by Brouse was sufficient to provide police with a basis to conduct a limited stop of the Camaro to investigate further.  Once stopped, police made additional observations and gathered more information that permitted them to expand the scope of the stop and led to respondent’s lawful arrest.  We therefore conclude that the district court erred in granting respondent’s suppression motion.

            Reversed and remanded.

* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.