This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




State of Minnesota,



Elliott Lamar Pierson,


Filed September 30, 1997


Norton, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 96033809

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)

Lawrence W. Pry, Assistant State Public Defender, 875 Summit Avenue, LEC 304, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Norton, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Willis, Judge.



In challenging his conviction for first-degree aggravated robbery, appellant argues that police lacked probable cause to arrest him. The record indicates that the officers had the requisite probable cause to make an arrest. We affirm.

Minneapolis police arrested appellant Elliott Pierson, along with his companion Orlando Jivens. They were arrested at about 1:00 a.m., approximately two hours after officers received a call about a robbery at a Tom Thumb convenience store. The robbers were described as two young black males, one of them wearing a green jacket or sweatshirt and one, possibly the same man, wearing a black stocking cap. After reviewing the videotape from the store's security camera, the officer also noted that one of the robbers wore a pair of white shoes with a distinctive black, wavy pattern.

The officers who arrested Pierson and Jivens testified that they saw the two men walking along the street several miles from the Tom Thumb store. One officer testified that the men, on seeing the squad car, "immediately stopped, turned around, and started walking back the other way." The officer thought the men were "acting nervous," so they followed the men, at a slow rate of speed. One of the men had on a green jacket, the other wore a white hat. The men stopped at a pay phone attached to a nearby building and appeared to be only pretending to use the phone. At this point, the officers stopped the squad car and asked to speak with Pierson and Jivens.

The two officers immediately pat-searched Pierson and Jivens. One felt a coin-roll in Pierson's right jacket pocket. The other officer felt two coin-rolls in Jivens' pants pocket, along with a large wad in the other pocket that Jivens told him was "a bunch of lottery tickets." The two men were handcuffed, and the officers completed the pat-search, finding a bent screwdriver and a black stocking cap. The lottery tickets were in an envelope and had receipts stapled to them.

Pierson and Jivens were placed in squad cars, and the officer who had viewed the store videotape was summoned. The men were later formally placed under arrest.

The trial court denied Pierson's motion to suppress the evidence seized as the fruit of an illegal stop or arrest. The court concluded that the information available to the officers at the point they handcuffed the two men provided probable cause to arrest. The court also concluded that the officers were justified during the pat-searches in feeling the coin-rolls to determine that is what they were.


In reviewing a trial court's pretrial suppression order on undisputed facts, this court determines independently as a matter of law whether the evidence must be suppressed. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992).

Pierson argues that he was under arrest, for Fourth Amendment purposes, when he was handcuffed in the midst of the pat-search, before being placed in the squad car. Because we conclude that police had probable cause to arrest at that point, we assume for purposes of this opinion that Pierson's analysis as to the point of arrest is correct. See generally State v. Blacksten, 507 N.W.2d 842, 846 (Minn. 1993) (person is under arrest, for Fourth Amendment purposes, when a reasonable person under the circumstances would not have believed he was free to leave).

Probable cause to arrest exists if the objective facts and circumstances are such that a person of ordinary care and prudence would entertain a strong and honest suspicion that the defendant has committed a crime. State v. Johnson, 314 N.W.2d 229, 230 (Minn. 1982). Here, the officers noted that Pierson and Jivens were acting nervous and were wary of police, and that some of their clothing matched the description of clothing worn by the Tom Thumb robbers. They then discovered both men to be in possession of coin-rolls, and Jivens to be in possession of what he admitted were lottery tickets.

As Pierson argues, the description of the Tom Thumb robbers was vague, and he and Jivens did not match it in important respects. But possession of coin-rolls and, especially, a large wad of lottery tickets is very suspicious. A large wad of lottery tickets is not something that a person would generally acquire in an innocent manner. When these facts are combined with the suspicious actions of the two men and the partial match with the description of the Tom Thumb robbers, it is evident that probable cause existed.

It does not appear that the two arresting officers knew that coin-rolls and lottery tickets had been taken in the Tom Thumb robbery. But the items stolen had been reported to police, and, under the "collective knowledge" approach, the question is whether the pooled knowledge of the entire police department establishes probable cause. State v. Eling, 355 N.W.2d 286, 290 (Minn. 1984); State v. Conaway, 319 N.W.2d 35, 40 (Minn. 1982). The arresting officers can be credited with the knowledge of other officers concerning the proceeds of the Tom Thumb robbery, even though they personally acquired it at a later time. Moreover, the two officers did not need probable cause to believe that Pierson and Jivens were the Tom Thumb robbers, as long as they had probable cause to believe they had committed some crime. The officers' knowledge of the Tom Thumb robbery at least confirmed that there was a recent robbery of a store that would have had coin-rolls and sold lottery tickets.

Pierson has filed a pro se brief challenging the stop as well as the arrest. He raises the additional claim that the stop was illegal and that the coin-rolls were manipulated during the pat-search, in violation of Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 113 S. Ct. 2130 (1993). The stop, however, was adequately supported by the furtive and suspicious actions of the suspects and by their partial similarity to the Tom Thumb robbers. Police may not manipulate an object during a pat-search to determine whether it is contraband. Id. at 378-79, 113 S. Ct. at 2138-39. But a coin-roll is a distinctive, easily identified object, and one of the officers testified he had worked in a convenience store. Jivens himself identified the wad in his pocket as lottery tickets. The record does not support Pierson's argument that these objects were manipulated in violation of Dickerson.