United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. CRABTREE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
December 24, 2016, Officers Brandon Uhlrig and Zachary
Goodman of the Topeka Police Department arrested Henry D.
McKnight, Jr. for Lurking and Prowling in violation of Topeka
City Code § 9.45.070. During a search following the
arrest, Officer Uhlrig found six .40 caliber bullets on Mr.
McKnight's person. Minutes before the arrest and search,
Officer Uhlrig found a .40 caliber pistol on the ground in
Mr. McKnight's vicinity.
on December 10, 2015, Mr. McKnight was convicted for
Aggravated Battery; Physical Contact/Weapon. This conviction
prohibited him from possessing a firearm. Based on evidence
that officers had located the pistol, the grand jury indicted
Mr. McKnight on one count of possession of a firearm in
violation 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and 924(a)(2) on
March 8, 2017. On August 4, 2017, Mr. McKnight moved to
suppress all evidence about the bullets. Doc. 15. The court
held an evidentiary hearing on August 29, 2017. The court has
considered the parties' briefings and evidence, and now
is prepared to rule. For reasons explained by this Order, the
court denies Mr. McKnight's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 15).
Factual Background 
December 24, 2016, at approximately 4:10 a.m. Officers Uhlrig
and Goodman of the Topeka Police Department responded to an
alarm at Paisano's Restaurant in Topeka, Kansas. When
they arrived, they saw a person they later identified as Mr.
McKnight lying on the ground in front of the restaurant's
front door. They were unable to investigate further at that
time because they were then called away to another higher
priority call. They didn't return to Paisano's until
about 4:34 a.m. When they returned, Officer Uhlrig arrived
first. When he arrived, the person still was lying in front
of the front door, facing the doors.
Uhlrig approached Mr. McKnight, shined a light on him, and
announced “Topeka Police.” At the announcement,
Mr. McKnight rolled over, tried to stand, stumbled, and
fell.Then, he got up and started to walk around
the building, moving away from Officer Uhlrig. Officer Uhlrig
asked Mr. McKnight to sit down on the bench, but he continued
to walk away through the patio to the parking lot. Officer
Goodman intercepted Mr. McKnight at the parking lot and
Officer Uhlrig asked him to sit down again. This time,
McKnight complied. Once Mr. McKnight sat down, Officer Uhlrig
asked Mr. McKnight his name and if he needed any help,
explaining they had been called to the restaurant because the
alarm had reported. While Officer Uhlrig spoke with Mr.
McKnight, Mr. McKnight pulled his arms out of the sleeves of
his sweatshirt once again. Following this preliminary
interaction, Officer Uhlrig walked across the patio to the
side patio door to investigate the alarm further.
his flashlight, Officer Uhlrig found a handgun lying on the
door mat in front of the patio door, a broken door handle on
the ground, and the damaged door. Officer Uhlrig immediately
turned back to Mr. McKnight. Officer Uhlrig then demanded to
see Mr. McKnight's hands, had him stand up, and told Mr.
McKnight he needed to check Mr. McKnight for weapons. Mr.
McKnight attempted to walk away and Officer Goodman helped
secure Mr. McKnight. Officer Uhlrig checked Mr. McKnight for
weapons and found none. Officers Uhlrig and Goodman had Mr.
McKnight sit back down.
Officer Uhlrig went back to searching the area near the patio
and front door. Officer Uhlrig met Sergeant Lam at the front
and they walked back to the patio and the handgun. Officer
Uhlrig secured the handgun and cleared it. At that point,
Officer Uhlrig again demanded that Mr. McKnight stand up and
then, placed him under arrest. Officer Goodman secured Mr.
McKnight while Officer Uhlrig cuffed him. Once Mr. McKnight
was secured, Officer Uhlrig searched Mr.
McKnight. Officer Uhlrig found a cellphone, keys, a
state probation officer's business card, and six .40
caliber bullets on Mr. McKnight's person. After
completing the search, Mr. McKnight was placed in the back of
Officer Goodman's patrol vehicle and transported to the
police station for processing.
Fourth Amendment forbids unreasonable searches and
seizures. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 9 (1968). If
the defendant challenges the reasonableness of a search or
seizure, the government bears the burden to prove the
reasonableness of that search or seizure by a preponderance
of the evidence. United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S.
164, 177 (1974); United States v. Zubia-Melendez,
263 F.3d 1155, 1160 (10th Cir. 2001). If the court determines
that the search or seizure violated the constitution and the
law enforcement activity was not objectively reasonable, the
court can suppress the fruits and instrumentalities of the
search or seizure. United States v. Leon, 468 U.S.
897, 918-19 (1984).
McKnight asserts that the court should suppress evidence of
the bullets found on Mr. McKnight's person because the
officers did not have reasonable suspicion to detain Mr.
McKnight. Additionally, Mr. McKnight asserts that the court
should suppress the bullets evidence because the facts do not
support the charge for which Mr. McKnight was arrested. The
court will address the defendant's arguments and
government's responses in chronological order with the
McKnight first addresses his standing to challenge the search
and seizure of his person. Doc. 15 at 3. Although the
government does not contest his standing, the court will
address it briefly. The Supreme Court has always recognized
that “[n]o right is held more sacred, or is more
carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every
individual to the possession and control of his own person,
free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by
clear and unquestionable authority of law.”
Terry, 392 U.S. at 9 (quoting Union Pac. R.R.
Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250, 251 (1891)). Here, the
officers seized and searched Mr. McKnight's person.
Therefore, Mr. McKnight has standing to challenge the search