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United States v. Lewis

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 27, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Joseph B. Lewis Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: February 9, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City

          Before SMITH, [1] GRUENDER and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

          BENTON, Circuit Judge.

         Two detectives entered a work area of Freaks Tattoo Shop without a warrant to talk to Joseph B. Lewis about a person of interest. They saw a gun on a shelf and seized it. Lewis then volunteered that he was a felon. He was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Lewis moved to suppress the discovery and seizure of the firearm. The district court denied the motion. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, this court affirms in part, reverses in part, and remands.

         I.

         On July 7, 2015, Detective Loran Freeman of the Independence Police Department went undercover to Freaks Tattoo Shop in Independence, Missouri. He was looking for a person of interest in an unrelated case. When he entered the shop, Lewis, an employee there, was sitting at a reception desk in a common area inside the front door. Detective Freeman spent five to ten minutes looking at tattoo art. Not seeing the person of interest, he left.

         Ten or fifteen minutes later, Detective Freeman returned to Freaks Tattoo with Detective Aaron Gietzen. They dressed in plain clothes, displaying their neck chains and badges. They did not have a warrant. No one was at the reception desk, but one customer was sitting in the common area. The detectives rang a bell on the desk, trying to get someone to answer. No one answered. The customer told the detectives he was waiting while Lewis drew him a tattoo in the back of the shop.

         Behind the reception desk was an open doorway to a work area with individual stations for tattooing customers. There were no signs telling people to stay out of the work area, but a Freaks Tattoo employee testified that the reception desk was meant to be a visual barrier keeping people from walking into the work area uninvited. Detective Freeman knocked on the doorframe for two to three minutes, identifying himself and Detective Gietzen and asking if anyone was there.

         Hearing no answer, Detective Gietzen entered the work area and knocked on a closed door to a back room. Lewis answered and joined both detectives in the work area. The detectives identified themselves and told Lewis they wanted to talk about the person of interest. Detective Freeman asked if it was okay to talk there. Lewis said yes.

         Detective Freeman asked Lewis if the person of interest worked at Freaks Tattoo. Detective Gietzen then noticed a handgun in a nylon holster on a shelf on the side of the room. He grabbed the handgun, removed it from the holster, and checked to see if it was loaded. Lewis then told the detectives he was a felon and did not need any hassles. The detectives did not know Lewis was a felon until he told them. Detective Freeman told Lewis they would keep the handgun. The detectives left with the handgun.

         Detective Freeman and another officer returned to Freaks Tattoo the next day to talk to Lewis about the firearm. They asked him if there was somewhere private they could speak. Lewis led them through the work area, through a door, to the back room. Lewis told them he got the gun from a customer a year or two earlier.

         The Government charged Lewis with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Lewis moved to suppress the evidence obtained by search of the shop and the seizure of the handgun. After a hearing, a magistrate judge recommended denying the motion. The district court adopted the magistrate judge's findings of fact and conclusions of law, denying the ...


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