Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
"Doc" Lowery, front, is joined by three of his shop's tattoo artists, Paul Child, left, Vanessa Callanta and Randal Craig.

AMERICAN FORK — Not everyone is happy in Happy Valley.

Gregory "Doc" Lowery, owner of Happy Valley Tattoo & Piercing, believes American Fork police trampled his civil rights when they raided his shop in early January looking for what police say were questionable photographs.

Police obtained a search warrant for the shop after a man called police and said his daughter had seen photographs he felt were inappropriate for minors to view, said Lt. Darren Falslev. They executed the search warrant on Jan. 3 and took the pictures, photos of genital piercings, for further investigation. Falslev said police have turned their findings over to the county attorney's office, which will decide whether to file charges.

Lowery said police took the photos the shop has, which are bound in a binder with "Adult Body Piercings" printed on the side, along with most of the other photos.

"In addition to the two photo albums, they took all the artist's portfolios," Lowery said. "(They took) tattoo flash art for ideas of images, they took art off the walls, even religious art."

Falslev maintains the officers who searched the shop took only what was specified in the search warrant.

Happy Valley Tattoo is a division of Whole Life Ministries, a nondenominational church, and brings in revenue for Lowery to perform charity work.

Falslev said state law maintains pornographic materials shouldn't be accessible to minors.

Lowery and members of his staff argue that the photos are not pornography but clinical teaching materials that allow them to show customers their work.

"(They're to) show people we know what we're doing and can do a good job," said Shandi Child, an assistant manager.

Both Lowery and Child said that minors don't generally look at the book with adult piercings and they've never had a problem before. The shop now has the books behind the front desk so people have to specifically ask to see them. Before the shop was served with the search warrant, the books were in the open.

Fall and winter are the slow seasons for the tattoo parlor, Lowery said, and employees keep track of everyone who enters the shop. Between eight and 18 people enter the shop a day, Lowery said, a number low enough to remember who comes in. He said employees say a group of four teenagers never came into the shop at the time the teenagers told police they saw the photos — sometime between the end of November and the beginning of December.

The county attorney's office hadn't received the case by press time and therefore hadn't reviewed the case or decided whether to file charges.