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United States v. Long

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 12, 2018

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
Rashawn Long Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: June 13, 2018

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

          Before LOKEN and MELLOY, Circuit Judges. [1]

          MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

         Rashawn Long was convicted by a jury of one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Long was sentenced to 360 months' imprisonment. He appeals, arguing the district court[2] erred by failing to suppress evidence discovered during an inventory search. He also argues the district court erred in calculating his criminal history. We affirm Long's convictions and sentence.


         On October 26, 2013, Long parked his car in the backyard of Valerie McCoy's house. Long did not know McCoy. He approached McCoy's door, knocked, received no answer, and left on foot, leaving the car parked in her backyard without permission. McCoy was home at the time and had observed Long park his car. Out of fear due to the unusual situation, and because she did not recognize Long, she did not answer the door. Instead, she locked herself in her bedroom and called the Kansas City, Missouri police.

         When officers arrived at the scene of the apparent trespassing and vehicle abandonment, McCoy explained that a black male parked the car in her yard, knocked on the door, and left when she did not answer. The officers found a 2013 silver Avenger parked in McCoy's backyard, ran the license plate number, and learned it was a rental car. After an unsuccessful attempt to contact the rental company, the officers called a tow truck to remove the car from McCoy's property.

         After officers had already ordered the tow truck, Long ran towards them from another property. He gave the officers his name, told the officers the name of the person who had rented the car, and explained that he had parked the car in McCoy's yard to hide the car so that he could visit the nearby home of a girlfriend without being seen. Recognizing the strangeness of the situation, the officers handcuffed and frisked Long and asked if they could look in the car. Long said it would be okay but that the keys were at a nearby house. He did not otherwise provide assistance to the officers to obtain the keys or enable a search.

         Officers ran Long's name, and a computer search revealed two outstanding warrants for his arrest. Believing these warrants were out of Kansas City, Missouri, the officers placed Long in a patrol vehicle. Soon after, the officers learned the warrants were out of Kansas City, Kansas, and were non-extraditable. The officers did not, however, remove Long's handcuffs or release him from the patrol vehicle.

         Officer Ballowe, one of the first officers on the scene, asked the patrol vehicle driver to continue holding Long so he could "determine if there was anything illegal in the car." Around this time, Sergeant Hamilton, a member of the Kansas City Police Department's illegal firearms squad, arrived at the scene. He was called because he was investigating Long as a possible suspect in several homicides and had asked to be notified any time Long had an encounter with police. Sergeant Hamilton was with Officer Ballowe for the entire vehicle search.

         Because the car was locked, the tow-truck driver used a "slim jim" to open the car door. On the passenger seat of the car, Officer Ballowe found a backpack containing pepper spray, a taser, and a Coke can. The can felt hard and solid, so Officer Ballowe twisted the top of the can and discovered a bag containing a white powder. At this point, Sergeant Hamilton told Officer Ballowe to stop the inventory search in order to obtain a search warrant.

         Long was placed under arrest, the vehicle was towed, and Long was issued a ticket for illegally parking the vehicle. After obtaining the search warrant, officers discovered a camcorder in the car. The camcorder contained clips of Long with a Glock pistol. Additionally, the white powder was tested and determined to be 2-(Methylamino)-1-phenyl-1-butanone (buphedrone), a Schedule I controlled substance. Long was subsequently indicted for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and possession of a firearm by a felon.

         Before trial, Long moved to suppress the evidence against him. Following a suppression hearing, the magistrate judge recommended denying the motion to suppress, finding that the vehicle search was a valid inventory search and assuming, without deciding, that Long had ...

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