United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
L. Christensen, Chief Judge
the Court is Defendant Seth William Daniel's Motion to
Suppress Evidence. (Doc. 23.) Daniel stands charged with one
count of prohibited person in possession of a firearm in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8). He seeks suppression
of evidence on the basis of an alleged illegal entry into his
home, during which time law enforcement officers viewed him
carrying an AR-15 assault rifle. An evidentiary hearing was
held on October 29, 2019. Having considered the testimony at
the hearing, an audio recording of the relevant interaction,
and the police reports and other exhibits submitted by the
parties, the Court denies the motion.
before dusk on June 30, 2019, Billings City Police Officers
Jayden Romero and Travis Fjetland responded to a complaint of
a disturbance in a South Side neighborhood. (Doc. 28-1.) When
they exited their vehicle, they could hear a man shouting
from inside a house. Approaching the house, they saw children
in a car parked outside the residence and Daniel, inside and
visible through the open doorway, screaming at a woman. As
the officers neared the door, the woman- Daniel's
girlfriend, Xena-left the house.
Fjetland spoke with Xena very briefly as she moved into the
yard. She told them that Daniel was inside the house along
with his father, Sam, and that Daniel was not doing well.
Xena stepped down the stairs from the entryway, the door open
behind her. Officer Fjetland called to Sam, who was visible
from the entryway, and asked to speak with Daniel.
began to direct his attention and anger toward the officers.
Officer Romero's personal microphone captured the audio
of the exchange. Daniel unleashed a stream of invectives
toward the officers, which was echoed at times by his father.
As the officers made initial contact, Daniel yelled, "No
habla ingles! Get out! No trespassing allowed!" (Doc.
30.) The officers announced themselves as Billings police,
and Daniel replied, "Fuck the police, man! Come back
with a warrant, motherfuckers!" (Id.)
officer can be heard talking to Sam, calmly asking, "How
are you doing? We're just here to talk with him."
(Id.) Daniel continued to scream in the background,
claiming that the officers are trespassing-a recurring theme
during the confrontation. (Id.) On this point,
Daniel was partially correct, as the residence was
technically outside city limits. The complainant who made the
initial call had mentioned a man yelling from inside his
house and a silver car parked outside, but the wrong address
was given. When police arrived on the scene, they found that
the altercation was not happening at the anticipated
address-within city limits-but across the street. However,
Officer Romero testified that a five-mile buffer zone
surrounds the city, where there may not be official
jurisdiction but the city policy still has an obligation to
the communities within the zone.
thirty seconds after Daniel and his father initially became
aware of the officers' presence, Sam can be heard saying,
"Get your foot out of my door." (Id.) Sam
had attempted to close the door, but Officer Fjetland had
placed his boot next to the doorjamb to keep it from
latching. At the hearing, he testified that he may have
shoved the door open to place his foot.
Daniel continued to scream, Sam insisted that the officers
get out of the doorway, and Xena attempted to intercede and
calm Daniel down. (Id.) She did not succeed. A
minute or so into the interaction, Sam repeated his belief
that the officers were there illegally. He pointed out that
the officers "are not pursuing me into my house,"
to which an officer responded, "You're right;
I'm not. We have an obligation to make sure that
everything's fine." (Id.) In response, Sam
asked Xena if everything was fine, and she said,
"Yeah." (Id.) From the house, Daniel can
be heard yelling that someone was "a piece of shit"
and yelling, "I see you putting your foot in my fucking
dad's door. You don't have no warrant."
the officers' multiple enjoinders to "calm
down" and "pump the brakes," the situation
escalated. (Id.) As demonstrated by the audio
recording, Daniel's voice grew louder and angrier, with
his attention jumping from the officers ("Get the fuck
out of here!") to Xena ("Fuck you! Fuck you!")
and back again. (Id.)
five minutes after officers arrived at the residence, Sam
asked Officer Fjetland to remove his foot from the door.
(Id.) He replied that he wouldn't, adding
"Calm down." (Id.) Within seconds, while
his foot was still in the door, Officer Fjetland saw Daniel
inside carrying an AR-15, loaded with what appeared to be a
large capacity magazine. In the audio recording, the officer
can be heard yelling, clearly agitated for the first time
during the encounter, "Put the fucking gun down
now!" (Id.) Within the next minute, the
officers were able to get Sam out of the house and onto the
ground. Daniel refused to drop the gun, and the officers
allowed the door to close.
(and the children in the car) had not yet left the yard at
this point. Even after Officer Fjetland saw the gun and left
the threshold of the residence, Daniel continued to scream at
Xena. She can be heard on the audio recording, saying,
"He won't let me leave!" (Id.) Shortly
after, though, the officers were able to get Xena out of
Xena and the children were safe, the officers took cover and
attempted to negotiate with Daniel, as additional law
enforcement resources- including Yellowstone County Sheriffs
deputies-arrived on the scene. They did not attempt to
reenter the home, even as Sam got up off the porch and
repeatedly walked in and out of the residence. Ultimately,
after the officers were satisfied that only Daniel and Sam
remained in the residence, the officers left the scene
because they feared that they would be unable to effectuate
an arrest without threatening officer safety. They ...