A man in Grand Rapids, Michigan is suing the city, asserting that a police officer violated his constitutional rights when he detained and disarmed the man for what the man claims was the simple open carrying of a firearm as he walked down a sidewalk near his home.
The city claims that there is a much different story:
Grand Rapids police Officer William Moe was dispatched to the scene on a report of a man armed with a gun. When he arrived, he observed Deffert, and held him at gunpoint.
“Deffert was alone, and was loudly talking to himself,” Moe wrote. “Based on the area, and Deffert’s unusual behavior, R/O (responding officer) was concerned Deffert may have mental issues and was about to commit a violent crime.
“For R/O’s safety and the safety of the community, R/O made a high-risk felony stop on Deffert. R/O was working alone. R/O drew down on Deffert, and made him lay down on his stomach, and place his hands on his head,” Moe wrote.
He secured Deffert in handcuffs. He then secured a .40- or .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol with attached flashlight.
“Deffert immediately began stating that he was exercising his right open carry,” Moe wrote. “R/O explained to Deffert, he had that right (to) open carry as long as he was not a felon or had any documented mental orders.
“R/O further explained to Deffert, R/O would release him as soon as R/O checked him in LEIN (Law Enforcement Information Network). Deffert stated he had neither. Based on Deffert’s answers and odd demeanor, R/O was not so sure Deffert did not have some psychological issues. Deffert would not elaborate on why he was talking to himself. He had no cell phone on him,” Moe wrote, in a four-paragraph narrative.
Once he confirmed Deffert was not a felon and did not have a documented mental disorder, Moe released him. He also returned Deffert’s firearm, which was not loaded.
If you read the comments to the article, you’ll note that a couple of activists from Open Carry Michigan named Tim Beahan and Tom Lambert claim to have seen dashcam video of the stop, and that it doesn’t support Officer Moe’s claim that Deffert was talking to himself, or that he was standing in front of the church. They claim the video will show that Deffert was walking past the church on a sidewalk on the opposite side of the road when Moe came up from behind him and detained him.
This case could get very interesting if there is dashcam video as the open carry activists claim, and the video doesn’t support the officer’s explanation of events. Merely walking down the road shouldn’t be grounds for a felony stop and detainment, if that is indeed all that occurred.
If Deffert was loitering across the street from the church and loudly talking to himself in a manner consistent with schizophrenia, then Moe’s stopping of Deffert to see if he was possible public safety threat would make sense.
As always, it’s the context and the details that matter here, and I don’t know that we can know them unless that dashcam video is released and other witnesses (such as the 911 caller) come forward.