In the state of Michigan, it is legal to openly carry a handgun. However, when a police officer in Grand Rapids responded to a March 3 call about a man doing exactly that, he drew his weapon and ordered the man to the ground.
The interaction was captured on video and will likely be used as evidence in a federal lawsuit filed by open-carry advocate Johann Deffert. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Grand Rapids, lists Police Chief Kevin Belk, Officer William Moe and two other officers as defendants.
Though the video only captures part of the incident, the police car's dash cam captures minutes of audio. Police first dispatched an officer to investigate a "suspicious person" with a holstered firearm.
"It does look like he’s got a handgun on," Moe can be heard telling a dispatcher in the video. The officer also suggests the man is "talking to nobody."
With traffic stopped, Moe drew his firearm and ordered 28-year-old Deffert to the ground.
"Do not move. Why do you have a handgun on you?" the officer asked.
"It's my constitutional right to defend myself," Deffert replied.
Later in the video, Deffert continuously informed the officer that he was not a felon and he was legally openly carrying his gun.
"I gotta make sure you're not a felon, right?" the cop replies.
"Actually, you don't. That's not necessary. I can show you the penal code..." Deffert says.
Shortly later, the officer added: "Is that what you do on a Sunday, you want to stroll down the road?"
Deffert again told the officer that "it's not against the law."
"It’s illegal for you to stop me for it in the state of Michigan," Deffert is then heard telling Moe in the footage.
"I’m not breaking a law. … I’m just walking," he added, telling the officer that he was returning home from the New Beginnings restaurant.
"You’re talking to yourself. You’re going down the road here with a loaded handgun.Could I just think, maybe, you might be some kind of a nut?" Moe barked back. He also tells Deffert that he needs to check his criminal and mental health history.
The officer eventually released Deffert, telling him, "you've got everybody fired up around here today." He was not charged with a crime.
MLive.com provides an edited version of the 14-minute encounter between Moe and Deffert:
City Attorney Catherine Mish defended the officer's action, calling the response "very reasonable." She argued that Deffert was acting strange and talking to himself near a church service.
Deffert's attorney, Steven Dulan, told MLive.com that his client's constitutional rights were violated when he was unlawfully detained by police.
The city is calling for the lawsuit to be dismissed based on "reasonable suspicion."
“The stop, pat-down search, and brief detention of plaintiff were supported by reasonable suspicion and/or other legal cause,” assistant city attorneys Margaret Bloemers and Kristen Rewa wrote.
Watch the full, unedited encounter here.
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