September 16, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 17 CR 00119 -
Virginia M. Kendall, Judge.
Bauer, Brennan, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.
heated argument with his girlfriend, Micha Eatman found
himself pounding on her apartment door and yelling to be let
inside. Chicago police officers arrived in response to a 911
call and, within moments, they frisked Eatman, seized a
loaded handgun, and placed him in handcuffs. Officers then
asked Eatman to produce the gun's registration. The
officers also spoke to his girlfriend, who refused to sign a
police complaint. They then took Eatman to the police
station, where a background check revealed two prior felony
convictions. Eatman was turned over to federal authorities
and indicted for possession of a firearm by a felon in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Eatman moved to
suppress the gun, arguing that he was searched without
reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and arrested
without probable cause since, at the time he was handcuffed,
the officers did not know that he possessed the gun
unlawfully. The district court denied the motion, finding
that the officers had reasonable suspicion when they found
Eatman attempting to gain access to the apartment and that
the officers arrested Eatman only after inquiring whether he
had registration for the gun. Eatman entered a conditional
guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his
motion to suppress.
appeal, Eatman concedes the police officers had reasonable
suspicion to conduct a frisk but argues he was arrested
without probable cause when he was handcuffed and thus his
felon status should be suppressed. Because we find the use of
handcuffs on Eatman to be reasonable, we affirm.
August 19, 2016, at 5:09 a.m., the Chicago Police Department
received a call from a security guard reporting a domestic
disturbance at an apartment building located at 6425 South
Lowe Avenue in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Just
moments before, a tenant of the building called security to
report that her boyfriend had hit her and was trying to gain
access to her apartment. The 911 call led to the dispatch of
two Chicago Police units, each receiving this message:
"security officer brooks states m/b mikah beating f/b
trinidad 2 children in the apartment no drinking/no drugs cs
possibly may have gun cs she is req. more than 1 unit, cs he
may try to leave building,, nfi"
call reported more specific information, for instance that
there was likely a gun involved but a question as to whether
Eatman or his girlfriend had the gun. The security guard did
not say Eatman beat his girlfriend, but responded
"yes" when the dispatcher asked if Eatman
"touched" her. Both units received the message in
their patrol cars' computer system in the minutes prior
police officers entered the building and briefly spoke with
security guards before being escorted to the 19th floor.
According to the two officers who testified at the
suppression hearing, the guard escorting them upstairs
reiterated that Eatman may have a gun. As they exited the
elevator, the security guard directed the officers towards
the apartment; the four officers observed Eatman pounding on
the door and yelling to be let inside.
the officers approached Eatman, they told him to back away
from the door and put his hands on the wall. Officer Alvarez
frisked Eatman and found a loaded handgun tucked into his
waistband. Alvarez placed the gun into his pocket and
handcuffed Eatman with Officer Rangel's assistance.
exact timing of what transpired after Eatman's
handcuffing is unclear, but otherwise the factual record is
undisputed. Eatman's girlfriend emerged from the
apartment and spoke with the officers. According to the
officers, she was more concerned about $300 that she wanted
from Eatman; she ultimately refused to sign a criminal
complaint against Eatman. The officers asked Eatman if he had
a Firearm Owners Identification card or a conceal-and-carry
license. Although neither Rangel nor Alvarez testified as to
how Eatman responded, their interviews with the United States
Attorney's Office and the district court record show that
Eatman claimed the gun was his girlfriend's and that he
took it to keep the gun away from the children.
officers then transported Eatman to the police station, where
a background check revealed his prior felony convictions.
Eatman was read his Miranda rights at 8:17 a.m. and
then admitted to having knowingly possessed the gun. Eatman
was turned over to federal authorities and charged with one