GRAND RAPIDS, MI –A man who says he legally carried a pistol in a holster has filed a federal lawsuit against Grand Rapids police afegter he was forced to the ground at gunpoint and had his firearm temporarily seized.
Johann Deffert of Grand Rapids filed the lawsuit on Friday, Dec. 20, in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. He alleges police violated his constitutional rights, assaulted him and falsely imprisoned him.
Deffert is seeking a judgment of $100,000, and an additional $500,000 for punitive and/or exemplary damages, along with costs.
The incident happened around noon on March 3 when Deffert said he was walking on a public sidewalk, openly carrying a holstered pistol, when an officer approached.
Officer William Moe drew his service pistol and aimed it at Deffert as he approached, the lawsuit said. Moe ordered Deffert to the ground, on his stomach, and handcuffed him behind his back. The officer then removed Deffert’s gun from the holster.
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Officer Timothy Johnston and Sgt. Steve LaBrecque soon arrived at the scene, the lawsuit said. Police led Deffert to the back of a patrol car where he stayed, handcuffed, for about 10 minutes.
“(Deffert) repeatedly offered his identification to (police), who refused to retrieve it for several minutes, instead choosing to debate public policy with plaintiff,” attorney Steven Dulan wrote.
The officers verified that Deffert was entitled to carry a pistol because he was not a felon, was of proper age, and wasn’t in an area where firearms are prohibited. Police then released Deffert, the lawsuit said.
Dulan said police violated Deffert’s constitutional rights.
“(Deffert’s) act of openly carrying a pistol in public was intended, in part,to increase awareness that open carry is lawful in Michigan and to rally public support, therefore qualifying it as symbolic political speech,” Dulan wrote.
Police Chief Kevin Belk said he had no details about the incident or lawsuit. City Attorney Catherine Mish also did not want to comment until she had read the complaint and reviewed the police report.
Michigan State Police say there is no law against openly carrying a pistol as long as it is carried with lawful intent and is not concealed. Michigan law only limits premises where a person may carry.
John Agar covers crime for MLive/Grand Rapids Press E-mail John Agar: [email protected]