In a manner similar to that of Master Sgt. CJ Grisham in Texas, a Michigan police officer responded to a report of a “suspicious person” with a holstered handgun walking down the street. The officer then began to engage in illegal activity against the citizen. Why, you ask? Because it is perfectly legal to open carry in Michigan.
While the entire incident is not captured on the dash cam video of the police cruiser, there is enough video and audio evidence that the officer involved, Officer William Moe of the Grand Rapids Police Department, acted illegally and unlawfully against the alleged suspect Johann Deffert.
Though a woman had called 911 to report Deffert, the dispatcher told the caller that it was perfectly legal to openly carry a handgun. That should have been the end of the conversation. It wasn’t. The dispatcher then sent Moe to the scene.
Upon responding to the call, Officer Moe said, “It does look like he’s got a handgun on.” He also indicated that the man was “talking to nobody.”
Then the tyranny begins (and yes, this is tyranny, since no laws were being broken). Moe draws his weapon and orders Deffert on the ground. There is no threat from Deffert towards Moe or anyone else.
“Do not move,” the officer said. “Why do you have a handgun on you?”
“It’s my constitutional right to defend myself.”
Moe held Deffert on the ground as Deffert continually told Moe that he was not a felon and could legally open carry his handgun.
“It’s illegal for you to stop me for it in the state of Michigan,” Deffert told Moe.
“I’m not breaking a law. … I’m just walking,” he added.
Deffert told Moe that he was merely out that morning to have breakfast at a local restaurant and was on his way home.
“You’re talking to yourself,” Moe said. “You’re going down the road here with a loaded handgun. Could I just think, maybe, you might be some kind of a nut?”
This looks like strike three against the officer. “Talking to yourself” is reason to draw your weapon on someone and detain them in a thug like manner? Seriously?
“Is that what you do on a Sunday, you want to stroll down the road?” asks Moe.
Deffert answered, “It’s not against the law.”
“Well, you’ve got everybody fired up around here today,” exclaimed Moe.
“Excuse me?” Deffert said.
“You’ve gotten the people fired up around here today,” Moe responded. “Why do you think I’m here?”
City Attorney Catherine Mish said the police response was “very reasonable,” claiming that police said Deffert was acting oddly and talking to himself near a church service. Did anyone think he might be praying? Apparently not.
Deffert has filed a lawsuit against Officer Moe and Police Chief Kevin Belk, along with two other officers over the incident. His attorney, Steven Dulan, who also happens to be the spokesman for Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners, said that Deffert’s rights were violated when he was unlawfully stopped by Moe.
Let’s make this clear. Police are law enforcement. No law was broken. No crime was in process. Officer Moe and any officer that aided him in this incident should be permanently removed from the police force and never occupy a law enforcement office again. He should also not only be sued, but charged in violation of the very law he swore to uphold.
As for Police Chief Belk, perhaps Mr. Belk should spend more time training his officers in the law so that these types of incidents don’t occur. With regards to the dispatcher, it’s my belief that no officer should have been dispatched to the scene since no laws were broken. The excuse always surfaces that people are “worked up,” thus giving police a reason to do things like this. How people feel is irrelevant to the fact that someone obeying the law should not be put through this. Law enforcement is going to have to start telling paranoid 911 callers to chill out because no laws are being broken and stop responding to these situations that end up violating the law and the rights of the citizens.
Below is the 911 call:
The full unedited version of the dash cam is below, courtesy of MLive.com:
Part 2 Part 3
UPDATE: Compare the above with how this officer’s dash cam catches him as he reaches out to a young boy in the neighborhood he patrols.
UPDATE 2:The City of Grand Rapids is defending Officer Moe’s actions (as if we expected anything else). In a response to the lawsuit that was filed, assistant city attorneys Margaret Bloemers and Kristen Rewa wrote, ““The stop, pat-down search, and brief detention of plaintiff were supported by reasonable suspicion and/or other legal cause.” They called for the dismissal of the lawsuit.
The force defendant officer(s) used in the course (of) the lawful stop, pat-down search, and brief detention was objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances,” the attorneys wrote. “The individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from plaintiff’s suit … because reasonable officers could as least disagree as to whether the defendant police officers’ actions with regard to the plaintiff violated clearly established law.”
As mentioned in the original article, there was nothing lawful about the stop. That was the point of the lawsuit.
Both sides agree on what took place, but the city said that Officer Moe drawing his weapon and approaching Mr. Deffert was “in a manner consistent with a high-risk stop, i.e. his firearm drawn and pointed, was objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.”
The problem, again, was it was not a lawful stop.
The city says the police acted in good faith and without malice. Then they turned the entire incident on Deffert.
“Plaintiff’s injuries were caused, in whole or part, by his own actions.”
They appeal to the officer saying Deffert was talking to himself when Moe approached. I have to ask, is that a crime? Is it a crime to talk to one’s self? Is it a crime to pray as you are walking? Is it a crime to carry openly in the State of Michigan? The answer to all of these are a resounding “No.” There was no good faith here. The officer drew his weapon on a man not harming anyone and following the law. The way he conducted his conversation with Mr. Deffert may not have been malicious, but it certainly was condescending.
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