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United States v. Lewis

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 29, 2019

CHRIS LEWIS II, Defendant.



         On January 31, 2019, defendant Chris Lewis II was charged in a complaint with firearm and drug-trafficking offenses. On June 13, 2019, defendant filed a Motion to Suppress (Doc. 17) seeking suppression of evidence found during an unlawful search of the pickup truck he was riding in, and evidence obtained during the execution of four separate search warrants that were issued based, in part, on the evidence recovered during the unlawful entry of the truck. The court held a hearing on the motion on July 10, 2019. After considering the briefing and the evidence and arguments presented at the hearing, the court is now ready to rule on the motion.

         I. Background

         On December 19 and 29, 2018, and January 4, 2019, officers with the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department made controlled purchases of crack cocaine from defendant using a cooperating individual. During each of the distributions, defendant drove a red Pontiac G6.

         On January 27, 2019 at approximately 6:00 pm, a 911 call came into the Kansas City Kansas, Police Department regarding shots fired at an apartment complex on Wood Avenue. When police arrived at the scene, it was apparent that an armed disturbance had occurred. Shortly after 6:30 pm on January 27, 2019, Kansas City, Kansas police officers were dispatched to the University of Kansas Medical Center (“KU Med”) based on reports that a patient had arrived suffering from gunshot wounds.

         Evidence and testimony establish that defendant arrived at KU Med as a passenger in a Ford F-250 truck. His girlfriend, Kirsten Cain, drove the truck to KU Med and exited the vehicle with a child- presumed to be her child with defendant. She then opened the passenger door to assist defendant in exiting the vehicle. Defendant had sustained gunshot wounds to his leg. Cain acquired a wheelchair from inside the emergency department, and wheeled defendant into the hospital while carrying the child.

         Corporal Blake Eklund with the KU Med police department was working in the emergency department when defendant arrived. He was alerted by a security officer that a vehicle had arrived on the emergency drive carrying a gunshot wound victim. Ecklund located the truck, which was left unattended. He immediately noticed damage to the driver's side of the truck, including a flat tire and bullet-hole damage. He encountered Cain, who told him that defendant had been involved in a shooting in Kansas City, Kansas and that she had driven him to the emergency department. Ecklund then alerted the appropriate investigating agency, the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, of the potential crime.

         Per KU Med protocol, if a gunshot wound victim arrives in a vehicle, KU Med police must standby with the vehicle until the investigating agency arrives to investigate the crime. This is done to ensure no one tampers with the vehicle or any potential evidence. After Ecklund determined the truck was potentially involved in a crime, he called for the KU Med mobile unit to standby with the truck. Officer Latoya Atkins arrived at the scene. Because Ecklund had to do paperwork regarding the incident, he asked Atkins to watch the vehicle until the Kansas City, Kansas police arrived.

         After retrieving crime scene tape from her patrol car, Atkins walked around the vehicle to assess any damage so that she could provide information to the investigating agency. She initially observed bullet holes on the driver's side of the vehicle and noticed the driver's side tire was flat. She noted that all of the windows were rolled up except for the passenger side window, and there was a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. Atkins then opened the driver's side door to see if any keys were in the ignition. She testified that often when crime victims arrive at the hospital, they will leave their keys in the ignition in their rush to get inside the emergency department. Atkins checked to see if there were still keys in the truck because she wanted to secure them so that no one would be able to move the vehicle. After opening the door and leaning over the driver's seat for approximately 10 seconds, Atkins determined there were no keys in the vehicle. She testified that she was not looking for anything else in the vehicle other than the keys.

         Atkins was unable to block off the immediate area around the truck with crime tape, so she stood by the truck to keep it secure. At some point, Cain returned to the truck and told Atkins she wanted to move the truck. Atkins advised Cain that she would not be able to move the truck because it had been involved in a crime. Cain pulled out the keys to the truck from her purse and handed them to Atkins and then asked if she could retrieve her phone from the truck. Atkins escorted Cain to the driver's side and Atkins opened the door and located a black cell phone in the driver's seat. The phone, however, did not belong to Cain. Atkins and Cain began looking together in the truck to locate Cain's phone when Atkins noticed a gun laying on the passenger floor board. Atkins then alerted other officers that there was a gun in the vehicle.

         Officer Wesley Winters arrived to remove the gun and secure it. Upon arrival he noticed a strong scent of burnt marijuana coming from the truck. After the gun was secured, Atkins helped Cain to search the truck for the missing phone. When they were unable to locate Cain's phone, Cain asked for the original phone found on the driver's side. Atkins retrieved the phone and gave it to Cain, who then left to make a phone call. At some point, the Kansas City, Kansas police arrived, and Atkins relinquished the keys to the truck. The truck was later seized and moved to All City Tow.

         The truck, a 1992 Ford 250 with an extended cab, was owned by Cain's stepfather. Cain had been driving the truck on a daily basis for a few months before the January 27, 2019 incident. She had given defendant permission to drive the truck approximately 3-5 times in the week leading up to the incident, and at least one of these times defendant drove the truck alone. Cain's stepfather retrieved the truck after it was released from All City Tow.

         On January 28, 2019, the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department sought and received search warrants for blood and DNA samples from defendant. Police sought the evidence to prove possession of the gun and use of illegal narcotics. The accompanying affidavits referred to both defendant's crack cocaine distribution and to the January 27, 2019 incident. Police also sought and received a search warrant for the Ford F-250. The accompanying affidavits also referred to both defendant's crack cocaine distribution and to the January 27, 2019 incident. From the truck, police seized marijuana, plastic baggies, a black digital scale, and two cellphones. Police then sought and received a search warrant for the two cellphones.

         On January 31, 2019, defendant was charged by criminal complaint. He was later indicted on three counts of distribution of cocaine base, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a ...

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