People v. Ross

Decision Date20 July 1967
Docket NumberCr. 10533
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 429 P.2d 606 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Jimmie Lee ROSS, Defendant and Appellant. In Bank

Jimmie Lee Ross, in pro. per., and Bertram H. Ross, Los Angeles, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Walter R. Jones, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

McCOMB, Justice.

Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction of (a) robbery in the first degree and (b) attempted murder.

Facts: Walter Williams, general manager of a San Bernardino ice cream company, was in his office about 10 p.m. on September 20, 1964, counting daily receipts. A company driver, Mr. Asa Brown, was present. A person later identified as defendant appeared at the door and declared, 'This is a stickup, Walt.' Mr. Williams, known by that nickname, had never seen the person before. The intruder wore black shoes, dark trousers, a zippered jacket, gloves, and a woman's nylon stocking over his head. He was carrying a single-barreled shotgun with tape around it. The gun was pointed at the head and chest of Mr. Brown seated at the office desk.

The intruder ordered the two employees to get down on the floor and face the wall. They complied with the order, although Williams continued to face in the direction of the intruder and was thus able to observe the thief take an unknown amount of currency from the desk and place it in his pocket. The thief then said, 'Let's go to the safe room.' The employees were ordered to open the safe and to again get down on the floor.

The neon lights in the room were defective and occasionally flickered, prompting the thief to say, 'What is that? Who turned that light on? You know, if anybody walks through that back door now, he is a dead man.' The thief reached into the safe for a large sack of money, and finding it too heavy to lift with one hand he placed the shotgun on the floor to use both of his hands. Williams yelled, 'Let's get him,' and the employees rushed the intruder. The thief was able to regain possession of the gun and used it as a club, striking Williams repeatedly on the head, arms and body. During the scuffle with their assailant, both employees were able to closely observe his features despite the stocking. They later positively identified defendant as the robber.

Mr. Brown broke away to call the police, while Williams continued the struggle, but the thief was able to escape with a sack containing rolled money and currency. Williams later estimated the entire amount taken was approximately $800.

As the thief fled he wanted 'Don't come any closer or I will shoot.' Nevertheless, Williams and Brown followed him outside and saw him retreating with the shotgun and a traveling bag. The thief pointed the gun at them and ordered, 'Don't try to follow; get back.' After the robber disappeared from view, Williams advanced to the corner of the building and observed a person he believed to be the thief behind an automobile approximately 100 feet away. He next heard a blast from a shotgun and felt pellets strike both legs.

Police officers arrived shortly thereafter, and during their investigation they found coins lying on the street where the shot was fired. Bystanders provided a description of the suspect's automobile, and Brown described the physical characteristics of the thief. This information was transmitted by radio to a police dispatcher, who alerted all units.

About 10:40 p.m. a vehicle answering the radio description was sighted by a San Bernardino police patrol unit. The officers immediately attempted to halt the vehicle with a red light and siren. Instead of stopping, the driver accelerated and attempted to evade pursuit. Realizing the fleeing automobile was not going to stop, the officers fired seven shots during the ensuing pursuit, to which the suspect responded with a shotgun blast. During the pursuit the officers were able to observe that the driver of the vehicle wore a white shirt and red vest.

During the chase the officers were in radio contact with other police units, and when the pursuit reached the jurisdictional border of the neighboring community of Colton, an alerted police unit was waiting to intercept. The latter took over with red light, siren and spotlight. The driver of the suspect vehicle leaned out of the car window and swung a taped, sawed-off shotgun towards the pursuing Colton police approximately two car lengths behind. The officer beamed his spotlight directly into the suspect's face and slid down on the front seat. He saw a flash and heard the report of the shotgun. Pellets struck the police vehicle, breaking a headlight, puncturing the radiator, and ricocheting off the windshield. Pursuit, however, continued until the escape route became blocked by gates to a mill yard entrance. The suspect increased his speed and broke through, but further progress was prevented by a variety of materials stacked in the yard. As the suspect jumped from his vehicle, the officer trained a spotlight directly on the fugitive, who looked back toward the light, enabling the officer to observe at close range his face and profile. The officer later positively identified defendant as the person pursued.

The suspect began to run despite an order to halt. The officer returned to the police unit and radioed a report in which he described the suspect as blond, wearing a white shirt, tie, dark trousers and a bright red vest.

A San Bernardino police vehicle, who had been monitoring the chase by radio and heard the description, observed a man in a white shirt, black pants and a red sweater vest walking across an open field. He was carrying a necktie in his hand, his clothes were disheveled, and he appeared to be tired. Defendant was arrested and transported to the San Bernardino city jail. An examination was made of the suspect vehicle, identified as belonging to defendant. Officers discovered therein $131 in currency, $298 in rolled coin, $154.23 in loose coin, five money bags, shotgun shells, numerous articles of clothing, a traveling bag, and a pair of gloves. The money bags contained daily receipts and stamped coin wrappers identified as belonging to the plundered ice cream company. Also recovered was a check bearing the endorsement of Asa Brown which he had cashed and placed in the company safe prior to the robbery. Approximately 100 feet from defendant's abandoned vehicle, officers found a sawed-off shotgun with white tape on the barrel.

The day following the robbery Brown was requested to view a police showup, and he identified defendant as the thief from a lineup of four persons.

Questions: First. Was the incidental search of defendant's person proper?

Yes. It is axiomatic that a search of the person incidental to a lawful arrest is valid. (United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 60, 64, 70 S.Ct. 430, 94 L.Ed. 653; Agnello v. United States, 269 U.S. 20, 30, 46 S.Ct. 4, 70 L.Ed. 145; People v. Simon, 45 Cal.2d 645, 648(2a), 290 P.2d 531; In re Dixon, 41 Cal.2d 756, 761--762(9), 264 P.2d 513.)

A peace officer may arrest a person without a warrant whenever he has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed a felony. (Pen. Code, § 836, subd. (3).) 'Reasonable cause' is defined as that state of facts as would lead a man of ordinary care and prudence to believe and conscientiously entertain an honest and strong suspicion that the person is guilty of a crime. (People v. Ingle, 53 Cal.2d 407, 412(2), 2 Cal.Rptr. 14, 348 P.2d 577; People v. Fischer, 49 Cal.2d 442, 446(1), 317 P.2d 967.) No exact formula exists for determining reasonable cause, and each case must be decided on the facts and circumstances presented to the officers at the time they were required to act. (People v. Ingle, supra, 53 Cal.2d at p. 412(2), 2 Cal.Rptr. 14; People v. Ferguson, 214 Cal.App.2d 772, 775(4), 29 Cal.Rptr. 691.)

The arresting officers, through official radio communication, were fully apprised of the commission of an armed robbery; they had a description of the car, which they had pursued until the Colton police took command; they also had a detailed description of the driver from the Colton police and they knew that the pursuit had terminated at the mill yard. They were entitled to rely on information from official sources. (People v. Estrada, 234 Cal.App.2d 136, 152(11), 44 Cal.Rptr. 165, 11 A.L.R.3d 1307; People v. Schellin, 227 Cal.App.2d 245, 251(7), 38 Cal.Rptr. 593.) Shortly thereafter, while patrolling in the vicinity of the mill yard, the officers observed defendant walking through an open field; his description matched precisely that given by the officer who had him in the spotlight; his clothes were disheveled, and he appeared tired. The arresting officers clearly had probable cause to arrest defendant, and the incidental search of his person was, therefore, valid. (Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175--176, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879; People v. Schader, 62 Cal.2d 716, 722(2a), 725(2b), 44 Cal.Rptr. 193, 401 P.2d 665.)

Second. Was the seizure of defendant's personal effects, including money found on his person, lawful?

Yes. A search of an arrested person at the time of his booking has always been considered contemporaneous to his arrest and is a reasonable search. His personal effects may be removed from him; the police may examine them to see if they have been stolen, return them to the prisoner on his release, or preserve them for use as evidence at the time of trial. (People v. Rogers, 241 Cal.App.2d 384, 389(7--8), 50 Cal.Rptr. 559; People v. Wickliff, 144 Cal.App.2d 207, 213(6), 300 P.2d 749; Bruce v. Sibeck, 25 Cal.App.2d 691, 697--698(3), 78 P.2d 741.)

Section 1412 of the Penal Code provides that when 'money or other property' is taken from an arrested defendant the officer taking it must give a receipt therefor. This...

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