Tattoo Shop Owner Wants Police to Return His Property

Friday, October 29th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The owner of a Tulsa tattoo and body piercing shop claims he did nothing wrong. Police arrested his shop manager earlier this week for allegedly offering tattoos to undercover police officers. Tattooing is illegal in Oklahoma and that's just "part" of the stink over ink.

Not much is left inside the business known as Eyewitness Tattoo and Body Piercing. The owner, Cliff James, says the interior walls of his shop were covered with $20,000 worth of tattoo pictures. James says Tulsa police ripped down every one of the pictures that portrayed tattoos. "Pieces are all over the floor,” said James. “The screwdrivers are still laying here. They could have just detached them.”

Billy Hembree is the store manager and body piercer. He says two undercover Tulsa police officers approached him about a tattoo. Hembree told them to pick out a design and he could make them an appointment for them in Missouri. He says he set the appointment took a deposit, and that's when the police officers arrested him and took him to jail. "They said I offered to tattoo them and I didn't,” said Hembree. “I offered to make them an appointment." Officer Andy Phillips with the Tulsa police department sees it differently. "Our statute addresses either actually giving someone a tattoo in the state of Oklahoma or offering to give one,” said Phillips. “The charge is actually an offer to tattoo."

Oklahoma law states that it is illegal for anyone to tattoo or offer to tattoo in the state. However, the Oklahoma attorney general upholds that the statute does not prohibit advertising tattoo services when the tattooing is to occur in another state where it is legal.

James says he opened his shop based upon on that opinion. "They're trying to put us out of business,” he said. “It's not going to happen. I have two other businesses. They're going to have to come to Missouri if they really want me out and that’s not going to happen," James explained.

Police say if the district attorney doe not prosecute, everything that was confiscated in the arrest will be returned. If anything is damaged, police say James can ask the city to pay for it.