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Date: 03-11-2024

Case Style:

United States of America v. THOMAS ANTHONY PEARCE, II

Case Number: 23-5007

Judge: Before MCHUGH, EID, and ROSSMAN, Circuit Judges.


Plaintiff's Attorney:

Defendant's Attorney:


UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS criminal defense lawyer represented the Defendant seeking to suppress evidence obtained from a traffic stop .

In the early morning hours of February 8, 2021, Corporal Robert
Golliday of the Jenks Police Department was working the night shift,
patrolling the city of Jenks, Oklahoma in his marked police cruiser. At
around 2:00 a.m., he drove through one of Jenks’s “distance neighborhoods,”
a residential area somewhat isolated from the rest of the city. R.II.14:18–
15:7; SR.I.58–59. Corporal Golliday spotted a white Dodge Ram—which
turned out to be Mr. Pearce’s truck—parked in the driveway of a
construction site on 131st Street, a main thoroughfare. There were no
streetlights nearby, and the truck’s headlights were off.
Corporal Golliday regularly patrolled the area, which was a recent
target for burglaries, but he had never seen a car parked in that spot before.
As he passed, Corporal Golliday shined an alley light, a bright light on the
side of his patrol car, to see if anyone was inside the truck. He saw someone
moving in the driver’s seat. Corporal Golliday drove on for a few seconds to
turn his cruiser around at a nearby T-intersection and investigate further.
By the time Corporal Golliday turned around, the truck was already driving
1 We derive these facts from the district court’s recitation in its
memorandum and order on the motion to suppress. Because, as we will
explain, we consider testimony presented to the district court during its
evidentiary hearing, United States v. Fonseca, 744 F.3d 674, 680 (10th Cir.
2014), we rely on the transcript from that hearing as well.
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 2
away, “accelerating down the road at high speed.” SR.I.59. Corporal
Golliday activated his overhead lights and signaled for the truck to stop.
The truck eventually pulled over, after bypassing several places to safely
stop. Corporal Golliday approached the truck and encountered Mr. Pearce
in the driver’s seat. B.P., later identified as a minor, was seated in the front
passenger seat.
Because of information obtained during the stop, Mr. Pearce was
arrested and then indicted in the Northern District of Oklahoma on various
child pornography related offenses.2 Before trial, Mr. Pearce moved to
suppress under the Fourth Amendment “all evidence and material obtained
directly and indirectly” from the traffic stop. SR.I.20. He argued, as relevant
here, Officer Golliday lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop.3
2 The government charged Mr. Pearce with Coercion or Enticement of
a Minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b); Production of Child Pornography
in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2251(a) and 2251(e); Possession of Child
Pornography in Indian Country in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252(a)(4)(A)
and 2252(b)(2); and Distribution of Marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(D). SR.III.5–8.
3 In the district court, Mr. Pearce also urged suppression because the
detention exceeded its permissible scope. He abandons that argument on
appeal. Reply Br. at 3 (“[T]he only issue is whether there was reasonable
suspicion to initiate the stop.”).
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 3
The district court held an evidentiary hearing. Corporal Golliday
testified about the circumstances of the traffic stop.4 Mr. Pearce called no
witnesses. The district court denied Mr. Pearce’s suppression motion in a
written order. The challenged evidence was admitted at Mr. Pearce’s jury
trial, where he was convicted on all charges.
This timely appeal followed.
Mr. Pearce contends the district court erroneously denied his motion
to suppress because Corporal Golliday lacked reasonable suspicion to
initiate an investigatory stop. The district court rejected this argument and,
on this record, so do we.
We review a district court’s denial of a motion to suppress by
“view[ing] the evidence in the light most favorable to the determination of
the district court.” United States v. Johnson, 43 F.4th 1100, 1107 (10th Cir.
2022) (quoting United States v. Santos, 403 F.3d 1120, 1124 (10th Cir.
2005)). We accept the district court’s factual findings unless they are clearly
erroneous. See United States v. Hammond, 890 F.3d 901, 905 (10th Cir.
2018). “While the existence of reasonable suspicion is a factual
4 Corporal Golliday also testified about the stop at Mr. Pearce’s trial.
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 4
determination, the ultimate determination of the reasonableness of a search
or seizure under the Fourth Amendment is a question of law reviewed de
novo.” United States v. Fonseca, 744 F.3d 674, 680 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting
United States v. White, 584 F.3d 935, 944 (10th Cir. 2009)).
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals “against unreasonable
searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. Interactions between police
and citizens generally fall into one of several categories: “consensual
encounters, investigative stops, and arrests.” Oliver v. Woods, 209 F.3d
1179, 1186 (10th Cir. 2000). The stop at issue here was an investigative
detention. “An investigative detention, which is also referred to as a Terry
stop, is a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, but unlike
an arrest, it need not be supported by probable cause.” Id. To satisfy the
Fourth Amendment, an investigative detention must be “justified at its
inception,” United States v. King, 990 F.2d 1552, 1557 (10th Cir. 1993)
(quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 (1968)), and “reasonably related in
scope to the circumstances” prompting the stop, Terry, 392 U.S. at 20. This
appeal concerns only the first requirement.
To be “justified at its inception,” an investigative detention must be
supported by reasonable suspicion—“‘a particularized and objective basis’
for suspecting legal wrongdoing.” United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 5
(2002) (quoting United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417–18 (1981)). We
apply this objective standard from “the perspective of [a]
reasonable officer.” United States v. Guerrero, 472 F.3d 784, 787 (10th Cir.
2007) (emphasis omitted) (quoting United States v. Quintana-Garcia, 343
F.3d 1266, 1270 (10th Cir. 2003)). While not an onerous standard, United
States v. Simpson, 609 F.3d 1140, 1153 (10th Cir. 2010), reasonable
suspicion demands “something more than an inchoate and unparticularized
suspicion or hunch,” United States v. Hauk, 412 F.3d 1179, 1186 (10th Cir.
2005) (quoting United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989)). Instead, the
“officer must point to specific, articulable facts.” Simpson, 609 F.3d at 1147.
Our reasonable suspicion analysis “requires a court to assess the totality of
the circumstances, not to consider facts in isolation.” United States v.
Young, --- F.4th --- No. 21-2066, 2023 WL 3608101, at *5 (10th Cir. May 24,
2023) (citing United States v. Soto, 988 F.2d 1548, 1555 (10th Cir. 1993)
(“Whether . . . an investigative detention is supported by an objectively
reasonable suspicion of illegal activity does not depend upon any one factor,
but on the totality of the circumstances.”)). And “reasonable suspicion may
exist even if it is more likely than not that the individual is not involved in
any illegality.” United States v. McHugh, 639 F.3d 1250, 1256 (10th Cir.
2011) (quoting United States v. Albert, 579 F.3d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir.
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 6
The district court concluded Corporal Golliday reasonably suspected
Mr. Pearce was involved in criminal activity “based on the time of day, the
unusual location of the vehicle, reports of crime in the area, and the
obviously suspicious behavior of driving away from Golliday at a high rate
of speed.” SR.I.64. The district court made these factual findings:
 Mr. Pearce’s truck was parked “near a construction site in an unlit
area” at 2:00 a.m. SR.I.58–59.
 Corporal Golliday passed the truck in his marked police car.
 Corporal Golliday had never “seen a vehicle parked in that location
on his regular patrols through the area.” SR.I.59.
 The truck’s lights were off, but when Corporal Golliday “turned on
his side alley light” as he drove by, he “observed a person in the
vehicle.” SR.I.59, 64.
 There was a history of vehicle break ins and construction-site theft
in the neighborhood.
 After Corporal Golliday passed the truck, Mr. Pearce “fled the area
at a high rate of speed.” SR.I.64. Based on Corporal Golliday’s
“training and experience,” he believed Mr. Pearce “was driving
faster than the posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour.” SR.I.59.
“Considering the totality of the circumstances,” the district court
determined Corporal Golliday “had reasonable suspicion to initiate an
investigative detention.” SR.I.64.
Mr. Pearce makes three main arguments on appeal. First, he contends
the district court clearly erred in finding he was speeding. This appears to
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 7
be Mr. Pearce’s only attack on the district court’s factual findings. Second,
Mr. Pearce challenges the district court’s ultimate conclusion that, under
the totality of the circumstances, reasonable suspicion supported the stop.
Third, Mr. Pearce urges reversal under United States v. Hernandez, 847
F.3d 1257, 1268 (10th Cir. 2017). As we explain, these arguments are
Mr. Pearce claims the district court’s finding that he fled from
Corporal Golliday “at a high rate of speed” is clearly erroneous. We disagree.
We will reverse a district court’s factual findings on clear-error review only
if they are “without factual support in the record or if, after reviewing all
the evidence, we are left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake
has been made.” Johnson, 43 F.4th at 1107 (quoting United States v.
Morales, 961 F.3d 1086, 1090 (10th Cir. 2020)). This standard is not
satisfied here.
Corporal Golliday’s testimony at the suppression hearing supports the
district court’s finding. Corporal Golliday testified he spotted Mr. Pearce’s
truck, turned his police cruiser around to investigate, and then “observed
[the truck] leaving the area at a high rate of speed.” R.II.21:20–24. Corporal
Golliday thought the truck was exceeding the posted speed limit of 45 miles
per hour. SR.I.59; R.II.22:20–24, 43:2–8. He admitted he did not use a radar
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 8
gun but testified about using his “training and experience” to estimate Mr.
Pearce’s speed. R.II.43:7–8. The district court credited Corporal Golliday’s
testimony that Mr. Pearce was speeding, and we see no reason to disturb
that conclusion.
Mr. Pearce says we uphold stops based on speeding only when there
is “more information in addition to the [officer’s] estimate.” Opening Br. at
14 (citing United States v. King, 209 F. App’x 760, 762 (10th Cir. 2006)
(noting officer’s use of a radar gun to measure a suspect’s speed)). As an
initial matter, the district court found Corporal Golliday “did not stop [Mr.
Pearce] solely to investigate a speeding violation.” SR.I.64. Instead,
Corporal Golliday relied “on a range of factors,” including the late hour, the
truck’s proximity to a construction site, and the truck’s speed as it left the
area to support the stop. SR.I.63–64. But even still, we have never
suggested an officer’s visual estimation of speed categorically cannot
support a traffic stop at its inception. Rather, “[i]t’s long been the case that
an officer’s visual estimation can supply probable cause to support a traffic
stop for speeding in appropriate circumstances.” United States v. Ludwig,
641 F.3d 1243, 1247 (10th Cir. 2011).5
5 We note the government does not argue Corporal Golliday’s visual
estimation of Mr. Pearce’s speed established probable cause for the stop.
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 9
Perhaps recognizing this principle, Mr. Pearce argues it was not
appropriate in this case to rely on Corporal Golliday’s visual estimation. Mr.
Pearce explains Corporal Golliday assessed his speed at night, in an area
without streetlights, and when Corporal Golliday was himself “accelerating
to catch up to Mr. Pearce.” Reply Br. at 8–9. These facts do not render the
district court’s finding clearly erroneous. Even if we could say “there are
two permissible views of the evidence” presented to the district court, “the
factfinder’s choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous.” United
States v. Pikyavit, 527 F.3d 1126, 1130 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson
v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 574 (1985)). And in any event, Mr. Pearce
fled from law enforcement.6 Defense counsel conceded at oral argument he
did “not specifically challenge[]” the district court’s finding of flight as
The government simply contends Mr. Pearce’s speed was part of the totality
of the circumstances supporting reasonable suspicion.
6 Mr. Pearce seems to contend it is significant he did not engage in
“headlong” flight, meaning he did not “flee an approaching officer.” Reply
Br. at 9. Mr. Pearce cites no authority defining flight so narrowly, and we
are aware of none. The Supreme Court has recognized “unprovoked flight
upon noticing the police” is “evasive behavior” relevant to the reasonable
suspicion analysis. Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 124 (2000) (emphasis
added); see also District of Columbia v. Wesby, 583 U.S. 48, 59 (2018)
(explaining suspects’ “scattering and hiding” after noticing police could be
factored into the totality of the circumstances).
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 10
clearly erroneous.7 Oral Arg. 11:37–12:04.
Mr. Pearce next argues the totality of the circumstances does not
support the district court’s reasonable suspicion determination. We are not
At the outset, we observe Mr. Pearce seems to proceed from an
incorrect point of departure for the Fourth Amendment analysis.
Reasonable suspicion “is based on the totality of the circumstances” and not
on “each of an officer’s observations in isolation.” United States v. Garcia,
751 F.3d 1139, 1143 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. Rice, 483
F.3d 1079, 1083 (10th Cir. 2007)); Sokolow, 490 U.S. at 9 (“Any one of these
factors is not by itself proof of any illegal conduct and is quite consistent
with innocent travel. But we think taken together they amount to
reasonable suspicion.”). Mr. Pearce contests the significance of several facts
7 Even if preserved, a clear-error challenge to the district court’s
finding of flight would fail. When Corporal Golliday first saw Mr. Pearce’s
truck, it was parked with its lights off. As the government highlighted at
oral argument, Corporal Golliday wanted to investigate further but it took
him “four to six seconds” to turn around. Oral Arg. 20:20–20:46. In that
time, Mr. Pearce started to drive away “at a high rate of speed.” R.II.21:20–
24. No other cars were on the road, and Corporal Golliday was aware of
nothing else that could have provoked Mr. Pearce’s departure. R.II.23:8–16.
From that, Corporal Golliday testified he believed Mr. Pearce “was trying
to get away from the police.” R.II.22:25–23:7. Under the circumstances, we
cannot say the finding Mr. Pearce fled from law enforcement lacks factual
support in the record.
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 11
found by the district court, contending these should not factor into the
Fourth Amendment analysis because an innocent explanation attends to
For example, Mr. Pearce posits, even at 2:00 a.m., a person could “just
as likely [have been] parked in the [construction site] driveway to protect
the property” rather than vandalize it. Opening Br. at 16. When it comes to
the reports of break-ins and theft in the area, Mr. Pearce counters an
“individual’s presence in an area of expected criminal activity, standing
alone, is not enough to support a reasonable particularized suspicion that
the person is committing a crime.” Opening Br. at 13. Mr. Pearce minimizes
the significance of his driving away from Corporal Golliday, explaining an
“individual has a right to ignore the police and go about his business” when
approached by law enforcement without reasonable suspicion or probable
cause. Reply Br. at 9 (quoting Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 125
8 As a general principle, we do not disagree. Wardlow, 528 U.S. at 125
(holding “refusal to cooperate, without more, does not furnish the minimal
level of objective justification needed for a detention or seizure.” (quoting
Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 437 (1991))). But the district court found
Mr. Pearce fled, that factual finding is unchallenged, and “[f]light, by its
very nature, is not ‘going about one’s business;’ in fact, it is just the
opposite.” Id.
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 12
The Supreme Court has forbidden precisely “this sort of
divide-and-conquer analysis.” Arvizu, 534 U.S. at 274. Regardless of what
we might make of any singular fact, the proper focus of the district court’s
inquiry, and ours, is the totality of the circumstances. Looking to the
totality we have no trouble concluding, as did the district court based on its
thorough factual findings, that “specific, articulable facts,” Simpson, 609
F.3d at 1147, taken together, provided a “particularized and objective basis”
to suspect Mr. Pearce of criminal activity, Arvizu, 534 U.S. at 273 (quoting
Cortez, 449 U.S. at 417–18).9 Mr. Pearce has not meaningfully argued
Finally, Mr. Pearce urges reversal under United States v. Hernandez,
where we affirmed the district court’s suppression ruling following an
investigative stop. 847 F.3d 1257 at 1268. According to Mr. Pearce, the facts
in Hernandez are analogous to those presented here, and we should find his
stop, like the one in Hernandez, was based only on “inchoate suspicions and
9 The district court suggested Corporal Golliday had reasonable
suspicion to stop Mr. Pearce even without considering his flight. SR.I.64
(“These facts alone would have merited further investigation and Golliday
would have been permitted to approach the vehicle to conduct a limited
investigation even if defendant had not driven away.”). We find Mr. Pearce’s
flight significant in our de novo reasonable-suspicion analysis and factor it
into the totality of the circumstances.
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 13
unparticularized hunches.” Reply Br. at 6 (quoting Hernandez, 847 F.3d at
1270). We disagree because Hernandez is distinguishable.
In Hernandez, police stopped the defendant in the early evening as he
walked outside the fenced perimeter of a construction site near an
intersection in downtown Denver. Hernandez, 847 F.3d at 1260–61. The
defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained during the stop,
arguing the officers lacked reasonable suspicion. Id. The government
responded the officers had reasonable suspicion because:
(1) Mr. Hernandez was walking next to a construction site which
had been the previous target of construction material thefts; (2) he
was walking in a “high crime” area (with regard to theft, gang
activity, and drug dealing); (3) he was not using the sidewalk
located on the other side of the street; and (4) he was wearing all
black clothing and carrying two backpacks.
Id. at 1268. The district court rejected the government’s arguments and
granted the defendant’s motion. Id. at 1261. The panel likewise found these
justifications insufficient and affirmed. Id. at 1270.
True, Mr. Pearce and Mr. Hernandez were both stopped near
construction sites that had a recent history of theft known to law
enforcement. But Mr. Hernandez walked on public property outside a
construction site fence, id. at 1260, while Mr. Pearce admits he was parked
on a partially built driveway within a construction site. Opening Br. at 20;
R.II.16:5–17:8. Mr. Hernandez was walking near an urban intersection before
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 14
8:00 p.m., Hernandez, 847 F.3d at 1261, while Mr. Pearce was sitting in his
parked truck in a remote neighborhood at 2:00 a.m., SR.I.59, 64; R.II.14:16–
15:2. And unlike Mr. Pearce, Mr. Hernandez did not flee when he saw police.
Hernandez, 847 F.3d at 1261 (explaining officers drove next to Mr.
Hernandez as they spoke to him, and when they asked him to stop, he
complied).10 Thus, on the record before us, we are not persuaded to reverse
under Hernandez.
10 Mr. Pearce relies on several other cases, but none advance his cause.
Reid v. Georgia is factually distinguishable. 448 U.S. 438, 440–41 (1980)
(finding no reasonable suspicion where a suspect arrived on a flight from a
location known to be a source of cocaine, the flight arrived early in the morning,
the suspect had limited luggage, and the suspect and his companion appeared
to “conceal the fact that they were traveling together.”). So is United States v.
Davis. 94 F.3d 1465, 1470 (10th Cir. 1996) (finding no reasonable suspicion
where government “fail[ed] to show any specific factual basis for suspecting”
the defendant of a “particular crime” based on the defendant walking in a high
crime area with his hands in his pockets and defendant’s choice to continue
“walking in the same direction and same manner” after officers instructed him
to stop (emphasis omitted)). United States v. Salazar seems to undermine Mr.
Pearce’s position. 609 F.3d 1059, 1061 (10th Cir. 2010) (finding potentially
innocuous conduct, like pulling into a closed business next to an unoccupied
commercial vehicle, supported reasonable suspicion in the totality of the
circumstances after the suspect attempted to evade officers).
Appellate Case: 23-5007 Document: 010111013120 Date Filed: 03/11/2024 Page: 15


We AFFIRM the district court’s denial of Mr. Pearce’s motion to suppress.

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