A Grand Rapids man is suing the city, the police department and three officers, alleging his right to openly carry a gun was violated when he was ordered to the ground at gunpoint and his weapon was taken.
Johann Deffert claims in the federal lawsuit filed Friday that around noon on March 3, he was walking along a public sidewalk openly carrying a handgun in a holster at his hip. It is legal to openly carry a firearm in Michigan.
GRPD Officer William Moe then approached Deffert, drew his service pistol, pointed it at him and ordered him to the ground, the suit says.
Deffert did as he was told, lying on his stomach while Moe took his gun and handcuffed him. Officers Timothy Johnston and Steven LaBreque then arrived.
Deffert remained handcuffed in the back of police cruiser for about 10 minutes, he said. He said he offered his identification to the officers, but they wouldn't take it. Instead, they "debated public policy" with Deffert for several minutes, the suit alleges.
After confirming through a state database that Deffert was not a felon, was old enough to have a gun and was in an area where the gun was allowed, the officers released him. He was never arrested, nor was he charged with a crime.
The lawsuit says the incident constituted a violation of Deffert's First, Second, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, which protect the right to free speech and the right to bear arms, prevents unreasonable searches and seizures, and ensures due process and equal protection, respectively.
The suit alleges the three officers "showed intentional, outrageous, and reckless disregard for Plaintiff's constitutional rights" and that Deffert "suffered physical and emotional injury, loss of freedom, and loss of other constitutionally protected rights."
It says the officers caused Deffert undue fear when a gun was pointed at him and pain when he was forced to the ground and handcuffed, and that the incident left him humiliated.
It claims the officers never had any reason to believe he had committed a crime or had any illegal intention. It also says one reason Deffert was carrying the gun was to raise awareness about Michigan's open carry law.
The suit claims the city failed to properly train the officers on Michigan gun laws, which caused the incident.
Deffert is suing for a $100,000 judgment and another $500,000 for punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.