December 2, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. No. l:15-cr-00250-WCG-l - William C.
Griesbach, Chief Judge.
WOOD, Chief Judge, and Easterbrook and Williams, Circuit
Williams, Circuit Judge.
Tepiew entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of
assault resulting in serious bodily injury after she
confessed to beating her toddler son in the head with her
fist and shoe. On appeal, she contends that because her
confession came after a warrantless entry by police into her
home, it should have been suppressed. Because we find that
the warrantless entry was justified by the emergency aid
doctrine, an exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant
requirement, we find that the district court properly denied
her motion to suppress.
Monday morning, Officer Joshua Nickodem, a seven-year veteran
of the Menominee Tribal Police Department, was summoned to a
primary school in Keshena, Wisconsin. When he arrived, a
school counselor gave him a picture drawn by a seven-year-old
student, T.T. Beneath the drawing, T.T. wrote, "Today I
feel sad. I feel sad because my mom got hit in the ribs and
has a black eye. And she is hurting. And I help my mom
because I help her get to the bed." After drawing the
picture, T.T. told a school counselor that her one-year-old
brother had also sustained an unspecified injury to the head.
That counselor summarized their conversation in an email,
which the school also provided to Officer Nickodem. That
T.T. explained to me what happened this weekend. T.T. said
that her moms (sic) boyfriend beat her mom up. He gave her
mom a blackeye (sic) and her side hurts (ribs). T.T. ran to
the boyfriends (sic) mom's house which is two houses down
from there's (sic). His mom came back with T.T. running
to there (sic) house. Boyfriend dad was angry. T.T. took care
of her mom.
T.T. also said the boyfriend hurts her brother who is 1 yr.
T.T. said that her brothers (sic) face was puffy Monday
morning she saw him.
he spent nearly ten to fifteen minutes at the school, Officer
Nickodem never met with T.T. Rather, armed with the
information he obtained from the school counselor, he drove
directly to the Menominee County Health and Human Services
Department. At the department, he asked a child protective
safety worker to accompany him to T.T.'s home to conduct
a welfare check on the one-year-old child. Approximately five
minutes later, and in separate cars, Officer Nickodem and the
county employee drove at the posted speed limit and without
lights and sirens to T.T.'s home, which was located
fifteen minutes away on the Menominee Indian Reservation.
While en route, Officer Nickodem summoned his partner,
Officer Waukechon, to meet him at T.T.'s home.
arrived at the property, Officer Nickodem approached the
front door of the trailer where T.T. and her family lived. He
could hear that the television was on, so he knocked at the
door and announced his presence to see if anyone was there.
After knocking, he heard fast-paced walking inside the home
and saw, out of the corner of his eye, a curtain move. He
knocked again. This time, he heard what sounded like a door
lock. At no point, however, could Officer Nickodem see inside
the home. Nor did he hear any obvious signs of distress
(gunshots, screams, etc.). While Officer Nickodem knocked at
the front door, his partner, Officer Waukechon, stood at the
back door of the home. Officer Waukechon could hear Officer
Nickodem knocking and movement from inside the home. He then
heard someone lock the back door.
upon these observations, Officer Nickodem believed that
whoever was in the house did not want to speak to the police.
He also knew that obtaining a warrant would take, at a
minimum, an hour and a half to two hours. Concerned that the
mother and one-year-old child were in the house, seriously
hurt, and possibly being prevented from seeking medical
attention, he called his supervisor who happened to be with
the tribal prosecutor at the time. Officer Nickodem informed
the tribal prosecutor that seven-year-old T.T. had reported
that her mother and one-year-old brother were inside the home
and injured and that he felt that he needed to enter the
residence to ensure their safety. Officer Nickodem did not,
however, acknowledge or tell the prosecutor that he was not
certain who was in the house or if the mother and child were
even there. Based upon the information she was given, the
prosecutor told the officer that he did not need a warrant
and should enter the home.
speaking with the tribal prosecutor, Officers Nickodem and
Waukechon returned to the door of the home. Another officer,
Sergeant Kristof from the Menominee County Sheriff's
Department, arrived to provide additional back up and went to
the back of the residence. Once more, Officer Nickodem
knocked to announce their presence and warned whomever was
inside the home that he was going to knock down the door.
After waiting approximately fifteen seconds and receiving no
response, he kicked down the door and he and Officer
Waukechon entered the residence with their weapons drawn.
inside the home, Office Nickodem found T.T.'s mother,
Loni Tepiew, in the bathroom with two young children. One of
the children was a four-month-old infant, while the other was
the one-year-old child whom T.T. had referenced to her school
counselor. That one-year-old child, D.T., had what appeared
to be injuries to the side of his head. Ms. Tepiew had an
injury around her eye. Although Ms. Tepiew told the officers
that no one else was in the residence, the officers heard
movement and noises from a bedroom closet. In that closet,
which was blocked by a dresser, the officers found Ms.
Tepiew's boyfriend, ...