The Happy Valley Tattoo Massacre (Part 2)

Rev. Dr. Gregory Lowrey
Healer, Counselor – CEO
Whole Life Ministries
the raid...
So now the complaint has been made and the American Fork Police are doing whatever it is they do as they prepare to raid Happy Valley Tattoo.
On Thursday morning, January 3rd, 2008 Dr. Lowrey was sitting on the couch in the reception area of Happy Valley Tattoo & Piercing which is in the front portion of the Whole Life Ministries building, drinking morning coffee and writing on his laptop.
Three men in sports jackets came to the front door and peered through. They looked like salesmen to Doc and when they noticed the “closed” sign and checked the posted hours they left.
Doc and Kita continued to prepare for their day.
The studio had been closed Thursdays for several months while Doc and Kita were in Michigan, but now it had become a day that they performed services together without other artists or assistants.
The studio opened on time at 12 pm and right away a patron appeared to request a tattoo, some oriental symbols representing part of his spiritual quest in life. Paperwork completed, Kita went to work performing the tattoo service, while Doc went back to writing.
Just as the tattoo was wrapping up, at about 1pm, the “salesmen” from earlier returned, this time entering the studio and walking up to the front desk.
There were only two men this time and Doc considered that they might be managers from the loan company next door dropping in to say hi and inquire about services.
From the couch by the window, Doc spoke; “Hi there, are you here for a tattoo or piercing today?”
The taller of the two men (discovered days later to be Police Chief Lance Call – the guy who doesn’t return phone calls) replied, “Not either, really.”
The other man (Head of Detectives, Lt. Darrin Falslev) turned and walked over to Doc, extending a piece of paper as he arrived in front of him.
“I’m here to serve this search warrant.” He said.
Doc recoiled slightly, his hands retreating from his computer and the extended paper in the officer’s hand.
“You know of course that this is a church.” “I don’t think you can walk in and just serve a warrant like this.”, Doc replied.
“We can and we are.” Responded the Lt., dropping the warrant on top of Doc’s now closed computer.
Dr. Lowrey quickly read over the two page document, noting the description of the order to search that read: “Items to be searched for include: Books containing photographs of male and female genital with piercings and tattoos, as well as any loose photos of the same nature.”
Still slightly overcome by surprise, Doc replied that it looked like they could make their search and stood up to take the officers, now obviously not salesmen, over to where the books they were looking for were kept behind the front counter.
Lt. Falslev was surprised too. “Doc, I thought you were out of town till February?” he asked.
“Well, I was supposed to be, but had to return early.” “We have been here almost three weeks now”, said Doc. “What exactly is the problem?”
The officer asked if a few other police officers could be invited in to help the search go faster and Doc agreed.
During the several minutes while the other officers were being fetched a client came in seeking service.
Doc spoke to her for a few minutes and then turned her over to Kita, who would be doing her service.
Kita gave her a tattoo art book to look at for the art she was seeking – a string of 5 hearts down her cheek.
Chief Call, Lt. Falslev and one or two more male officers and two female officers, one blond and one brunette, entered the studio.
Lt. Falslev began to recount the charge that two 14 year old girls had come into the studio a day or two after Christmas and some girl behind the front counter had handed them a piercing photo portfolio containing pictures of male and female genitals to look at.
Doc responded that we don’t show those materials to minors as he took Lt. Falslev around the counter and showed him the bookcase containing portfolios and other art.
Doc pulled out three of his own piercing portfolios - one marked in big red letters “ADULT body piercing photos” and one brand new portfolio just put together a few days earlier by his assistant manager and body piercer Shandi, which contained examples of her piercing work including one or two genital piercings.
Lt. Falslev indicated that two of the books appeared to contain the material he was seeking and that the other piercing portfolios and artist’s portfolios containing photos of tattoos and drawings for tattoos were not needed.
The other officers were kind of standing around in the front area and the blond female officer had taken the seat on the couch that Doc had just vacated.
The woman looking for the heart tattoo seemed undeterred by the ongoing raid even when the art book she was looking at was taken right from her hands by one of the officers for inspection.
The Lt. suggested to the group that the books he had in hand were probably all they needed, but the blond female officer from the couch wanted to look at all the binders from the bookcase which the brunette female officer began to collect up and stack on the front counter for her, another male officer assisting in passing them to the couch.
While those three officers made themselves busy looking at lettering books and books full of traditional tattoo designs, the first two policemen, Chief Call now taking over, began asking Doc to open drawers in the front office area for them to inspect for “loose photos”.
No photos were found and books left by staff members on top of file cabinets under the counter proved to be on spiritual topics rather than the dirty books the officers at first presumed.
Doc suggested to the client that if she wanted to wait, she could take a seat until the police were done, but that it was not practical to help her more until then.
Kita went to sit in her work area and the client sat down in the reception area while the police continued their search.
Lt. Falslev and Chief Call now had Doc take them to each private artist work area and open for them each drawer in the artist’s private work stations.
Again, no loose photos of any character were found, nor were there any other objectionable materials, simply art and tattoo equipment and supplies and in the piercing station, piercing tools and supplies.
Chief Call now directed Dr. Lowrey to show him the rest of the building, starting in the furnace room and moving to the bathroom and back to the kitchen, garage and other areas of the attached apartment where Dr. and Mrs. Lowrey are living while they finish remodeling the studio.
When remodeling is complete the apartment will make a clinic for healing and counseling services and a general ministry meeting area in addition to a small living space.
The separate entrance will allow clinic and other patrons to enter through a separate part of the building from the studio as that has been a minor issue for some people seeking more traditional ministry services such as counseling and healing.
The chief did not seem to find anything of interest in the parsonage portion of the building and he and Dr. Lowrey returned to the studio area where the other officers were mostly standing around, except for the one blond female officer who was still sitting on the couch looking at tattoo books.
Doc was asked about the drawers under the jewelry display case and the piercing jewelry catalogs on top of it. Doc opened each drawer, once each for Chief Call and Lt. Falslev to look for photos or books with photos. The drawers only contained jewelry and other supplies, a few outdated jewelry catalogs and the cash drawer.
Now the whole building had been searched and nothing had turned up except the portfolios that had been produced in the beginning of the raid.
It should be important to note that the warrant only allowed a search of the reception area,  not the studio,  residence or other areas of the church.
The blond girl officer now started asking to have art, drawings and paintings taken off the walls in the artist’s private stations to add to her growing pile of material being seized.
Kita was emotionally overwhelmed as one of her original religious paintings was branded obscene and taken down and turned over to the police.
The officers now had decided to seize all of the artist’s personal portfolios as well as most of the “idea books” that patrons browse while considering what tattoo they desire.
They also decided to seize any art of any kind that depicted any minor degree of nudity as well as quantities of art that had no nudity at all.
None of the materials seized were in the reception area authorized by the warrant. 
Kita saw these seizures as crippling to the studio and couldn’t help but ask the officers why they were doing this to us.
Lt. Falselv and Chief Call were happy to answer her.
Lt. Falslev began telling us as though it was a proven fact, that we had provided pornographic materials to minors and our protests that none of our materials were pornographic just seemed to increase his counter protests that they were and his insistence that they had been “shown” by our staff to minors just the week previous.
Doc said something about how minors are not shown the book clearly marked adult, and that minors never want to look at it anyway as they seem to consistently consider adult piercings gross and icky.
Falslev voiced his contrary opinion adding that it was our responsibility to make sure no minors entered the studio unattended.
We countered that we had posted on both glass front doors our policy that minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian but that we were often unable to discern who was a minor and who was not, identification not being required until services were contracted.
Both Chief Call and Lt. Falslev then began a lecture telling us that it was “against the law” for us to allow minors in the studio and that we were violating the law on a regular basis by doing so.
They both seemed to feel that we should be able to tell how old each person was and demanded that we permanently position someone by the front door to check the identification of every person as they attempted to enter.
I said that would be a bizarre way to operate a church and again said that it was our own policy and not the law that made prohibitions on minor’s access to browse in the studio and that I couldn’t see us sitting someone at the door like that.
I also told the officers that we were not required to check the identification of browsers, only of people who were contracting services and that it would be unreasonable to do so or to ask us to especially since it was their opinion and not the law that would require it of us.
When I voiced my complaint of the disrespect we get from the community and local government here and how the parents pass the idea to their children that our rights and policies are not worthy of the respect they demand for their own, Chief Call snidely and contemptuously said, “If you aren’t happy about the disrespect you get from the government and community, why do you live in Utah?”
I told Chief Call, though he never did introduce himself and it wasn’t till days later that I found out that the tall, rude cop was actually the Chief who never returns phone calls, that it was none of his business why I live in Utah, that I had as much right to live there and practice my religion and art and live unmolested, enjoying my civil and religious rights as anyone else.
During the raid, we were told a couple more times by Lt. Falslev and Chief Call that we should a) move out of Utah, or b) go back to Detroit.
Then we got another lecture about how if we were smart, we would prohibit minors completely and not offer services even with parental consent, a suggestion we often get from other people who own tattoo studios and find dealing with minors more bother than it’s worth.
I replied that services to minors was a miniscule portion of our activity.
We generally serve one or two minors per month and that it would make life much easier for us if we did just as the officers and others recommended, especially as, not all, but certainly most of the minors here in Utah seem to be much more rude and disrespectful than we have ever encountered anywhere before.
However, we have always felt, in spite of how annoying too many minors seem to be, that it was a public service that we perform for the benefit primarily of the parents, that if their child is set on getting a piercing that there is a clean, friendly studio practicing professional standards that cared about the health and relationships of children and families that would be there to provide those services rather than just having kids out behind the school gym piercing one another as so often happens.
Were it not for our feelings of responsibility to local parents, being parents of six children (5 of them girls) ourselves, we would not have anything to do with minors in the studio who are interested in tattoo or piercing services.
Of course there are other ministry services that minors are as much candidates for as adults and for which there are no legal prohibitions and for those church services, it would be likely that minors would have access to the studio anyway.
Of course,  I later discovered,  studying the actual law that churches are not subject to any restrictions imposed on tattoo businesses, minor surgery being a legitimate and unregulated religious practice. 
The two cops (Falslev and Call) then instructed us that we had to make sure minors did not come in the studio unaccompanied and that it was our legal responsibility to ensure they did not or we would be held legally liable, suggesting that we add to our no minors sign another sign (I despise signs) that threatened minors with prosecution should they disregard the other signs we had up.
They told us that if we put up a sign, as we did temporarily, that said “Violators Will Be Prosecuted”, that then the police would have something they could enforce and that they would charge minors if they had been warned that prosecution was the penalty for disrespect.
My protests about my unwillingness to threaten children were treated contemptuously at best and we were told that we had to comply or face prosecution ourselves.
After several more instructions on how we should lay out the studio, placing the piercing station as far back in the building as possible, etc. and how we should conduct our policies and allegations that our staff do not follow our policies when we are out of town, the police rounded up the pile of books and art they had collected, gave us a receipt and left, first telling us that the city and county attorneys would be looking at the materials in order to decide what charges they would prefer against us and that everything not needed would be returned, giving us the impression that we would see our art back in just a day or two.
Kita was so shaken that she asked the patron who had sat waiting through the entire raid, that she was not really up to doing her best art, and could the girl come back in an hour or the next day to receive her face tattoo, but the she felt she had driven too far to come back later and wanted her service right then – so Kita complied, and did a great job in spite of her stress.
I locked the door and made a closed today sign to stick up and watched through the day as several patrons came, read the sign and drove away.
I looked at the Utah Attorney General’s website about pornography and found that according to the website, nothing in our studio, even the pictures of male and female genitals qualified as prohibited material and that they would be considered educational in nature “having value” to children and no different than looking at a sociological text or a copy of National Geographic – and perfectly legal.
The AG’s website also reminded me that the studio was a place that minors legally had a right to be and this really made my new “violators will be prosecuted” sign weigh on my mind.
On reflection we considered that our religious and civil rights had been violated, especially as the AG outlines how in the case of selling XXX films to minors which is certainly far beyond anything we were doing, the State would contact the seller, investigate to ascertain if any laws were in fact being violated and then give the store 30 days to come up to standards, that failing, then charging them with a misdemeanor violation.
Also of interest was the fact that churches and universities may possess any type of actual pornography (which we didn't) to use as they see fit - but I digress. 
In American Fork of course we were not given the courtesy of an informal investigation and assessment and negotiation, the police here prefer the sneak attack, based soley on the presumed word of one 14 year old girl, her information passed to the police through her angry father who didn’t really care about her disrespect and disregard for his rules and ours as much as he cared about kicking us out of town.
I called and left a message with the Utah ACLU and heard back later in the evening from the director who after about 20 minutes discussion agreed that we had a likely enough case for her to discuss it with one of her staff lawyers, which she would do and then get back to me.
Soon to come….part 3 (later today or tomorrow)
Utah County Attorney Jeffrey R. Buhman 801-851-8026
American Fork City Attorney Tucker Hansen 801-224-2273
American Fork City 801-763-3000
American Fork Police Administration 801-763-3020
Chief Lance Call – Lt. Darrin Falslev

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