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United States v. Quarterman

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 12, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
Curlie Marque Quarterman Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: October 20, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Davenport.

          Before LOKEN, GRUENDER, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

          BENTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Without a warrant, police officers entered Curlie M. Quarterman's apartment and seized a gun from a holster on his waist. The government charged him as a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The district court granted Quarterman's motion to suppress the gun and derivative evidence. Having jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3731, this court reverses and remands.

         I.

         At 7:16 a.m. on a Saturday, Carol Bak called 911. She said she was helping her daughter, Christina Bak, move out of Quarterman's apartment. He was Christina's boyfriend. Carol Bak reported having been in a "heated" verbal altercation with Quarterman. Quarterman "got in [her] face" and "had a gun on his waist." After the altercation, she left, leaving Christina Bak inside the apartment.

         Dispatch radioed a "domestic with a weapon involved" to Sergeant Robert Jackson. He, with Deputy Peter Bawden and a third officer, arrived outside the apartment building at 7:36 a.m. Carol Bak repeated what she said on the 911 call. She also said Quarterman was "making [Christina] get out" of his apartment.

         Around 7:38 a.m., concerned for the safety of Christina Bak, Sergeant Jackson and Deputy Bawden went to the apartment. Approaching, they heard voices in normal tones. They knocked; Christina Bak answered. She said "Hello, " then "Yeah, " and stepped back. Through the open door, the officers saw packed bags and boxes, and a man (later identified as Quarterman) sitting on the sofa. Sergeant Jackson asked, "Can we step in?" Deputy Bawden then saw Quarterman moving on the couch. He testified Quarterman was "moving his hands quickly and kind of scooting over or trying to stand up from the couch in a hurry . . . ." He also testified it looked like Quarterman was reaching toward the couch. Considering this "an indicator of fight or flight, " he said, "No, no don't you move fast." Christina Bak said, "What's wrong? What's wrong?" The officers asked about the gun. Christina Bak did not respond. Asked if he had a gun, Quarterman said, "No." Sergeant Jackson announced, "We are going to come in for a few minutes." He entered the apartment, placing himself between Christina Bak and Quarterman. Deputy Bawden moved just inside the doorway.

         Sergeant Jackson told Quarterman to keep his hands up, stand up, and turn around. Quarterman stood up, beginning to turn his body. Deputy Bawden testified he was "blading" his body, standing as a boxer does, flat-footed with a shoulder pointed toward an individual. The officers saw the handgun holstered on his right side. Deputy Bawden testified he noticed the gun when he saw Quarterman's right hand lowering toward his waist. The officers ordered him against the wall, seizing the gun. All of this, from the knock to seeing the gun, occurred in about 35 seconds.

         Sergeant Jackson told Quarterman he would return the gun once they were finished talking. Another deputy discovered it was stolen. The officers arrested Quarterman.

         Quarterman moved to suppress the gun and derivative evidence. He argued that the warrantless entry violated the Fourth Amendment. The Government invoked exigent circumstances. The district court granted the motion, concluding that the entry and search were unconstitutional. The court found neither exigent circumstances nor probable cause.

         This court reviews de novo the question whether exigent circumstances justified warrantless entry or search. United States v. ...


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