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Ohio Supreme Court Rules Columbus Police Lawfully Searched Man

Dan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau

The Ohio Supreme Court has determined Columbus Police officers were justified in their search of a man after hearing gunshots in the area.

In 2015, two Columbus Police officers responding to a domestic violence call heard nearby gunshots. They drove about half a mile toward the sound. When they arrived, the officers stopped and searched the only person in the area, a man named Jaonte Hairston.

Hairston explained beforehand he was carrying a gun. The officers found it in the course of the search and charged Hairston with carrying a concealed weapon.

In court, Hairston argued the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights, and its evidence should be suppressed. An Ohio appeals court agreed, determining the officers couldn’t connect the sound of gunfire with a person walking on the street. The judge wrote there was no “particularized connection” between the two.

But Justice Patrick DeWine, writing the opinion for the state Supreme Court found “the court of appeals went astray by focusing on individual factors in isolation rather than on the totality of the circumstances.”

DeWine writes, taken together, the facts that the officers heard the shots directly, responded immediately and had made arrests in the area before were enough to meet the burden of “reasonable suspicion.”

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.