Judge: GRPD ‘reasonable’ in detaining open carry advocate

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A case filed by an open carry advocate against the city of Grand Rapids and two Grand Rapids police officers has been dismissed.

On Monday a federal judge granted summary disposition in favor of the city. The judge ruled the officers acted reasonably and within their rights when they disarmed and detained Johann Deffert in March 2013.

According to the lawsuit, Deffert was walking in a residential neighborhood across the street from a church which was in service on a Sunday morning. He was wearing camouflage pants and had an FNP-45 Tactical pistol secured in a leg holster, with a TLR-2 rail mounted tactical light with a laser sight attached to the pistol.

Police say Deffert was singing “Hakuna Matata” loudly enough to be heard from a police cruiser when they responded to a 911 call from neighbors.

Officers William Moe and Timothy Johnston responded to the call. They disarmed Deffert and placed him into custody while they determined if he was legally carrying the weapon. The entire incident was captured on video.

Deffert sued the city of Grand Rapids and the officers claiming they violated his constitutional rights. Michigan law does not prohibit open carry.

But a federal judge disagreed. Judge Janet T. Neff ruled Monday that the officers acted reasonable. She noted that Officer Moe, who has spent more than eleven years assigned to the neighborhood where Deffert was walking, did not recognize him and thought Deffert “may have had mental issues and was about to commit a violent crime.”

The judge ruled that “Officer Moe was justified in following up on the neighbor’s 911 call and using swift action to determine whether plaintiff’s behavior gave rise to a need to protect or preserve life or avoid serious injury, either of Plaintiff or of others in the neighborhood.”

The ruling went to say that Officer Moe had “reasonable suspicion to stop and only briefly detain” Deffert. The judge said Officer Moe’s decision to first disarm Deffert was an “objectively reasonable decision” and the fact that Deffert was only detained for a total of 13 minutes while officers performed a criminal background check showed Officer Moe “diligently pursued” to quickly confirm or dispel his suspicions.

Dashcam video of Deffert’s detainment via YouTube:

Online:

Michigan State Police on open carry in Michigan (pdf)

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