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Court: Fitchburg cop had no right to frisk man later caught with illegal gun

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - A federal appeals court said a Fitchburg police officer had no right to frisk a man who then tried to run away, and was caught illegally possessing a handgun. 

On a 2-1 vote, a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Andre Williams should not have been frisked to begin with. 

It happened in March of last year, outside a Fitchburg tavern at night in what the judges called a high crime area. Police were sent to the bar when somebody complained that a group was loud and had guns.  

When the officers arrived, 10 men were acting peacefully, and they did not display any guns. An officer then frisked Williams. 

After a short chase, the officer found the drug ecstacy and a weapon.

Williams was later convicted of possessing a gun as a convicted felon, even though he tried and failed to remove the gun from evidence. 

Milwaukee Federal Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said the officer acted within the law -- but he also said similar facts could support a search of anyone at night in a high crime area where police are called.  

Judge David Hamilton said the frisk was unconstitutional, in light of Wisconsin's gun laws. 

Judge Kenneth Ripple, who cast the lone vote to uphold the officer's actions, said the other judges caused confusion over what police can do.