An Ohio man will finally get his legally-owned pistol back nine months after police confiscated it following his controversial arrest in February. He was never convicted of any crimes and his arrest occurred after he called police to report a potential crime in progress.
The city of Cleveland reportedly agreed this week to settle the federal lawsuit filed by Derrick Washington over what he says was the illegal seizure of his .38-caliber handgun. Police had refused to return his gun even after a city prosecutor refused to press charges due to a lack of evidence.
The ordeal began on Feb. 10 when Washington called 911 to report a possible shooting. At one point during the police investigation, he told the officers that he had a firearm in his car and a valid concealed carry license. According to the police report, officers also claim he told them he had two vodka drinks, a claim Washington's lawyer denies.
Washington was arrested and accused of using weapons while intoxicated and illegally carrying a concealed weapon. While Washington does have a valid concealed carry license, police say the charge was valid because they claim he failed to inform officers immediately that he had a license to carry a concealed weapon.
Washington's attorney, J. Gary Seewald told the Plain Dealer that his client told officers about his license as soon as he could.
Police searched his vehicle and hauled Washington to jail, where he remained for three days. When one of the arresting officers contacted the assistant city prosecutor about pursuing the case, the prosecutor said there was not enough evidence and dropped the charges. But even though Washington walked free, police kept his firearm under a city ordinance that allows the department to keep seized weapons until a "court of competent jurisdiction" determines the weapon must be returned.
"In Washington's case, the weapon was in his car. His lawsuit claims police had no probable cause to search the car," the Plain Dealer reports.
Seewald said the city ordinance should be repealed, and gun rights advocates argue the law is unconstitutional because it is in violation of state law pertaining to the possession of a firearm.
"If you own a gun (in Cleveland), you're a second-class citizen. Any other type of item seized by police during an investigation in which no charges are filed, the item is returned. But not a gun," Seewald said.
Washington filed a federal lawsuit and fought for nine months to get his gun back because it was a "matter of principle," the attorney explained. "He could have bought a new gun for $500. But he wanted to go through with this. He wanted his gun."
While Washington will finally get his legal gun back, the lawsuit did not do anything to prevent the city from seizing and holding firearms under the same city ordinance in the future.