This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




State of Minnesota,



Erick Eugene West,


Filed March 30, 1999


Randall, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 97-046-435

Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Amy Klobucher, Hennepin County Attorney, Gayle C. Hendley, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)

John M. Stuart, Minnesota State Public Defender, Ann McCaughan, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.



Appellant challenges his conviction for possession of a firearm without a serial number, asserting that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. We affirm.


On June 1, 1997, a Hennepin County work crew was cleaning a vacant lot in Minneapolis when a crew member, Dandre Brown, observed a man staring at him. Brown testified that the man lifted his shirt to reveal a bulge, which Brown believed was a gun or knife. According to Brown, the man had long hair, dark skin, and was wearing a red baseball cap. Brown informed his crew supervisor, Christopher Springett, and pointed the man out to Springett.

Springett reported the incident to nearby police officers. When the officers arrived at the scene, they saw a man in a red baseball hat, later determined to be appellant Erick West, walking with another man toward the work crew's van. The officers observed West lift his shirt and yell toward the van. When the officers ordered West and his companion to the ground, West ran while the other man stopped. West ran into a nearby house. The house's owner, Shirley Lillie, testified that she told West not to go in her house and that she gave police permission to follow him into the house. Officer Ryan Rivers followed West into the house and down the basement stairs. Rivers observed West reach into his waistband and throw what Rivers believed was a gun over the side of the stairs. There were three people in the basement, including West. Rivers ordered all three upstairs, and Officer Dave Robinson met them as they were coming out of the basement. Rivers informed Robinson that the gun was still in the basement. Robinson recovered a loaded gun without a serial number on the basement floor. Lillie testified that the gun did not belong to her and that she did not believe it belonged to anyone in her family.

West was charged with being in possession of a firearm without a serial number and was convicted of the charged offense after a jury trial.


When sufficiency of the evidence is challenged, the appellate court is limited in its review to determining whether the evidence is sufficient to support the verdict when the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). This court may not disturb a verdict if the jury could reasonably have found the defendant guilty after giving "due regard for the presumption of innocence and for the necessity of overcoming it by proof beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988) (citation omitted). If a conviction is based on circumstantial evidence, it will be upheld when "reasonable inferences from such evidence are consistent only with defendant's guilt and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt." Id.

West asserts that the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed the firearm in question. He insists that no one actually saw him with a gun. He also notes that there were two other people in the basement where police located the gun and insists that either of the other two people could have thrown or shoved the gun across the room when they discovered that police were coming downstairs. He points out that one of the other people in the basement was a convicted felon.

It is true that no one actually testified that they saw West possessing what they knew was a firearm. However, Brown testified that he saw the "print" or "bulge" of what he believed was a gun or a knife when West lifted up his shirt. Further, Springett, Brown's work crew supervisor, testified that Brown told him that West had a gun.[1] Officers Rivers and Robinson both testified that Springett informed them that West displayed a gun when he lifted up his short in front of Brown. Robinson also testified that when he spoke to Brown, Brown told him that West displayed a handgun.[2]

Rivers and Robinson testified that as they were approaching West and his companion from behind, they observed West lift his shirt and observed West yelling toward the work crew's van. Rivers testified that when West took off running, Rivers followed him into Lillie's house and down the basement stairs. According to Rivers, hewas less than 10 feet behind West the entire time. Rivers testified that as he was following West down the stairs, he saw West reach toward his waistband, saw a black object, and then "heard a metallic clank on the floor." He conceded that he did not know "positively" that it was a gun but stated, "It looked like a black object, looked like a gun, made a metallic clank on the floor."

West asserts that the gun found in the basement "could have" belonged to one of the other two people in the basement, but Rivers testified that the other two people were not near where the gun was located. Rivers testified that a female was lying on a bed "[o]ff to the right and towards the back of the first room" and a male was in a back room when Rivers entered the basement. Rivers ordered West and the other two people in the basement up the stairs. As they were going up, Officer Robinson was coming down the stairs. Robinson testified that as they passed, he asked Rivers if Rivers had recovered the gun. Rivers said that the gun was in the basement, so Robinson retrieved the gun. According to Robinson, the gun was at the bottom of the stairway, two or three feet left of the stairway West had just descended.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, as we must, there is sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict of guilty.


[1] West's attorney objected to this testimony at trial, asserting it was hearsay. The district court overruled the objection, and West does not challenge this evidentiary ruling on appeal.

[2] West's attorney did not object to the officers' testimony regarding Springett's statements to them. Although West's counsel objected to Officer Robinson's testimony about what Brown told him, the district court overruled the objection, and West does not challenge that ruling on appeal.