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Affluent Investor | March 24, 2017

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Cop Who Arrested Man for Legally Carrying Gun Gets Sued

police arrest

If you’re out in public, minding your own business and breaking no law, you shouldn’t have to fear being arrested, handcuffed, and tossed into a squad car.

But if you are so treated, can you sue the officer for damages? That is the substance of an Ohio case recently decided by the Sixth Circuit, where a man had been arrested for legally carrying a gun. The court’s ruling in favor of the plaintiff is good news not just for gun owners, but all other Americans who might now be spared arrest, humiliation, or worse.

Here’s what happened. Shawn Northrup and his wife took their dog out for a walk one evening in June, 2010 in their city of residence, Toledo. He was wearing a visible gun holster with a pistol showing, which he knew was perfectly legal under Ohio law. Northrup also has a concealed carry permit, but that wasn’t the issue since it is legal to openly carry firearms in Ohio.

Alas, the Northrups’ peaceful walk was interrupted when a passing motorcycle rider noticed the holster, then stopped and yelled, “You can’t walk around with a gun like that!” Denise Northrup replied that he was mistaken and her husband was completely within his rights.

Acting in that great American tradition of busybodyism, the motorcyclist figured that this couple out walking their dog was so fraught with danger that he called 911 to report the emergency. Remarkably, the 911 dispatcher happened to know that openly carrying a weapon is legal – but nevertheless she notified the Toledo police about this dire situation.

Within a few minutes, Officer Dan Bright pulled up in his squad car and encountered the Northrups. In an astounding overreaction to a non-threatening situation, Bright told Shawn that he would shoot him if he went for his gun. Bright then disarmed him, handcuffed him, told him he was under arrest for “inducing a panic,” and put him in the back of his squad car.

It took half an hour for Shawn and his wife to convince Bright that he had a concealed carry permit for the gun and had not broken any law. In a face-saving move, Bright wrote him a citation for “failing to disclose personal information” and released him.

Northrup was not willing to just forget about his spoiled evening and filed suit against Bright and the Toledo police department in federal court for violating his rights under the U.S. Constitution and state law.

Bright and the police argue, however, that the suit is barred under the doctrine of qualified immunity. That judicially-created doctrine says that officials who act reasonably in the course of their duties cannot be held liable. It’s the same defense that was raised in the Berry case I wrote about last year, where Florida police and licensing officials conducted an outrageous raid on a barbershop. The 11th Circuit didn’t buy the qualified immunity defense in that case and the 6th has rejected it here.

He needn’t have done nothing, but could have easily ascertained how unthreatening the situation was if he had just spoken calmly to Northrup for a few moments. Instead, he overreacted and resorted to force when none was necessary.

The holding doesn’t mean that Northrup wins, but only that the case can proceed to trial without the qualified immunity defense.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh’s comments on the decision are right on the mark:

“The police are free to approach people to ask them questions, even without reasonable suspicion that the people are violating the law. They can order a person to stop for a short while if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is committing a crime or about to commit a crime. They can certainly disarm him and arrest him if they reasonably think that he’s about to shoot them…. But to coercively stop a person – and certain to handcuff the person – the police do have to have reasonable suspicion.”

Northrup is an important Fourth Amendment case because it helps to clarify the need for reasonable suspicion before police can employ force, but perhaps even more important will be the subsequent trial verdict if Bright is held liable. One of the great – no, make that the great – civil rights issue America faces today is that government officials (and not just the police) think they can get away with almost anything. Often, they do, even when the harm is far greater than in this case.

An appalling example I wrote about recently is Kane v. Lewis, where a man suspected of nothing more than marijuana use was killed in a 4 AM SWAT raid. The Fourth Circuit’s decision to overturn the jury’s $250,000 judgment against the police in a case where they had not only overreacted, but then lied about it will only encourage that “we can get away with it” mindset.

If we are to deter swaggering, overly aggressive police conduct, the prospect of civil liability is crucial. Evan Bernick of the Institute for Justice rightly says in this Freeman piece, “Judge Sutton’s decision provides a blueprint for ensuring that those who enforce the law are not beyond its reach.”

Let’s hope so. Officers need to know that qualified immunity won’t save them from paying when they do wrong, just like the rest of us.

 

Originally published on Forbes.com.

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  • luvbach1

    The problem with suits of this sort is that the cop won’t be penalized, it will be the taxpayers!

    • craig

      I think this police officer in this decision will definitely have personal financial liability…and should.

      • Rattlerjake

        He should also he tried under criminal law for assault, kidnapping, etc. the same list of bs offenses they often try to add onto the person arrested.

    • Tom Stewmon

      The taxpayer should demand better costadeians of their money ie the Mayor & Police Chief.

      • Rattlerjake

        Not trying to be the spelling police, but what is your native language? Costadeians? You’re not even close. It’s Custodians!

  • John VanderKelen

    Police officers had best know what is an activity which should result in arrest and what does not and when undecided give the benefit of the doubt to that person.

  • Sunshine Kid

    Good luck on the suit. I hope the Northrups win the case, but also, I hope the individual police officer is held solely responsible, not the city nor police department, because then TAXPAYERS wind up footing the award.

    • used_to_be_a_liberal

      Well let’s see about that tax payer thing. At the most, and if limited to the city, it shouldn’t cost the tax payer any-more then 5.00 per tax payer. I can live with that, and if it takes money from other spending that the city would otherwise have done, well you know what, tough too bad. Perhaps those that run the city need to smarten-up.

      • Farmer John

        If punitive damagea are awarded, that will fall on the Officer. General damages will be on the City/taxpayers. If the Officer continues with his “blue shirt” attitude, his next victim could sue the City for negligent retention of said Officer.

        • Peleus

          If the city got no money they come after the residents

      • Sunshine Kid

        Why would they smarten up if they can make you pay? It’s no skin off their noses if the population says “I can live with that”, as you just did, and they’ll just raise the taxes and continue with the same old attitudes that get you higher taxes, more lawsuits and less efficient governing.

        • Exscotticus

          At some point, taxes do become a political issue. Granted, it has yet to happen in places like NY, NJ, and CT, where folks seem to have no issue paying 10k+ in property taxes for modest homes. But at some point, the lawsuits add up, the taxes add up, and the police commissioner (or sheriff) is held accountable (not to mention the County Board of Supervisors).

          • Sunshine Kid

            Same reason for the Revolutionary War: Taxes. The one issue that does not get addressed is the issue of ownership of property. When you buy or sell property, it is not an issue to pay taxes on the transaction. After all, it is a transfer of ownership, title, registration and so forth. However, the yearly/monthly property taxes now paid are actually giving up your property rights to the government. Think about this: A landlord has a right to kick you out of your rental property if you don’t pay rent. Same with the government if you don’t pay your property tax, so by default, the government OWNS your property and you only get rental rights. I’ll bet you never thought of that in light of your right to be secure in your home, property and papers, have you?

          • Exscotticus

            I agree. Technically we’re all renters. And property ownership is in fact an ever-dwindling bundle of rights in exchange for an ever-expanding tax burden, paid to the various legal sovereigns entities (city, county, state, nation) who claim ownership over everything.

    • ihatelibs

      Hmmm . Is That a REVOLUTION , I smell Brewing ??? Could be Sunshine . Could be . We will soon see . In the next 1 1/2 years I think . AMERICAN PATRIOTS have Had ENOUGH of the FRAUD ILLEGAL TREASONOUS KENYA MUZZY OCCUPIER , And the LIB/DEM COMMIEcrats , And the LAWLESS GESTAPO GUBMENT . Nothing that happens surprises me anymore . Expect Anything in the very near future . Be Prepared

  • lighteredknot

    The officer should have approached and said sir; do you have a permit to carry a weapon? Then allowed the carrier to produce it. That should render the issue moot and mute. All could then move on.

    • antiliberalcryptonite

      Whoa…….that is just TOO much common sense. Can we expect police (and others) to use common sense in this day and age??? sarcasm off.

    • uptohere

      There should have been no questions asked at all.
      He did not need a permit!

    • Mark Belk

      You are wrong, Ohio is an open carry state. That means anyone can walk down the street with a visible firearm legally.

      • GomeznSA

        True, but that would be persons who are legally able to own/carry, convicted felons would not be able to.

  • Reverend Joe Ruyle

    Being a L.E.O. he should be well versed enough to know about the open carry law in his own state. Unless walking a dog (presumably one on a leash) with ones wife is some sort of criminal act…… then there was no probable cause for a stop. Usually the only person who can open carry are the same ones who are licensed to conceal carry. (Farmers & ranchers on their own property can normally carry for their personal protection too) IF a stop was necessary then it SHOULD have been cordial rather than confrontational. Bid the couple a good evening…… inform them that someone was concerned because he saw a public display of a weapon…… then ask for ID and the Conceal Carry License. If everything is in order…. (and since these are law abiding people it usually is) tell them you’re sorry for the inconvenience and enjoy your walk……. then depart. Doing things the RIGHT way is usually always better than the alternative.

    • londontubes

      Except as I read it, since Ohio is an ‘open carry’ state, no CCL was necessary. No reason for the LEO to ask for the CCL.

      More info: Ohio Revised Code-9.68 Right to bear arms – challenge to law.
      “(A) The individual right to keep and bear arms, being a fundamental individual right that predates the United States Constitution and Ohio Constitution, and being a constitutionally protected right in every part of Ohio, the general assembly finds the need to provide uniform laws throughout the state regulating the ownership, possession, purchase, other acquisition, transport, storage, carrying, sale, or other transfer of firearms, their components, and their ammunition. Except as specifically provided by the United States Constitution, Ohio Constitution, state law, or federal law, a person, without further license, permission, restriction, delay, or process, may own, possess, purchase, sell, transfer, transport, store, or keep any firearm, part of a firearm, its components, and its ammunition.

      (B) In addition to any other relief provided, the court shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees to any person, group, or entity that prevails in a challenge to an ordinance, rule, or regulation as being in conflict with this section.

      (C) As used in this section:

      (1) The possession, transporting, or carrying of firearms, their components, or their ammunition include, but are not limited to, the possession, transporting, or carrying, openly or concealed on a person’s person or concealed ready at hand, of firearms, their components, or their ammunition.”

      So it seems to me that no CCL in necessary, and according to section (B) this guy might have a great chance of winning the case.

      • Reverend Joe Ruyle

        Our research seems to be in agreement and you are indeed correct. Ohio says open carry is a right. The exercise of that right, however, may be limited UNLESS the person also has a CHL permit. (although those restrictions seem to be minimal) To save space I’ll share the link I found. http://www.ohiocarry.org/legality-of-oc.html

        • Mark Belk

          I know in Mississippi a person does not have to have a CC permit to open carry.

      • Peleus

        It’d be cool if they did not dumb down the standards to hire cops eh?

  • PLW

    If the Badge heavy police officer was acting illegally, he should be penalized, or terminated from the police department… Simple !!!

  • pablo curley

    Here what the Laws says can not very confusing what Law says. In state of Ohio is okay but need to be in car or House only. That’s is in State of Ohio. You can not walk with it on your body belt. Like in state of Texas Yes can be use on your body all time now is the Law. You need read the Law Book because they change the Law every year Please update each time. Please watch The Law. This can be very costly your money & Lawyer time. This can be very timely confusing what Laws says..

    • azsdft

      I’m accepting all those comments that are about to hit because of my post:
      Pablo, please construct better sentences so that we can understand what you are saying.
      Thank you.

    • Oldshooter

      Actually Pablo, if I am reading your intent correctly, you have it backwards. In Ohio it is perfectly legal to walk around in public with a handgun carried openly on your hip, or with a rifle or shotgun carried openly, and has been for a long time. No license required at all. To carry a gun CONCEALED is what usually requires a special license. The reason for this is that, in the past, many Americans walked around carrying guns openly; it was only sneaky guys, like professional gamblers or criminals, who wanted to carry a concealed “hideout” gun. In TX, it is NOT (not yet, this will change on 1 January 2016) legal to carry a handgun openly, although it IS legal to carry a shotgun or rifle openly. Carrying a concealed handgun requires getting a TX Concealed Handgun License (CHL) to be legal, and it MUST be carried concealed. In TX, you can also have a gun in your home or on your property, and in your car if it stays concealed, without a license. Also the way the new law (effective next year) reads for TX, open carry will ONLY be legal for those who also have a CHL (this is also the case in OK). As you said, laws are different in each state, and they change often, so it’s definitely a good idea to keep an eye on the current laws in your state (or any other state you plan to travel in/through).

  • sandyinindy

    I think it unfortunate that the taxpayers will be paying for this or maybe the police could be sued for legal fees plus $1. I think the Police are in a really bad place now…rock/hard place. There has been a total breakdown of respect and just being polite toward Police. I’ve seen Tea Party vids where the exchange with the Police is that they have no right to ask citizens questions. That may be true, however I would never respond rudely or defiantly toward the Police…asks for my name for no reason, I’d give it. These folks do put their lives on the line everything they clock in and especially now where the president and government officials are “gunning” for the Police. That only wins my respect to the Police.

    • Don Duncan

      Police are well paid for the danger they willingly(voluntarily) worked to acquire. In addition to high pay (liberal retirement, benefits) they enjoy special privileges the average citizen does not, e.g., a moral pedestal (as your attitude proves).

      If respect has lessened, it is due to video evidence of wide spread police brutality. When it is caught on camera, the police claim it is the exception, not the rule, but the question remains: Why did the so-called “good cops” not weed out the deviants among them? Why do they continue to work along side of them for years? Why does it take an outsider who risks his safety to spotlight the malfeasance? Even then, the officer might be protected from accountability. When fired, the LEO might be hired by another police dept. and murder a 12 year old boy, as happened recently. Why do sociopaths thrive in law enforcement?

  • ActualConundrum

    I’d be more worried about a guy walking around with a baseball bat in his hand than a guy with a gun in the holster. Hope he is successful in his case.

  • Chief47

    Good for him! If cops can’t obey the law themselves, they ought to be either fired or sued, or both!

    • Exscotticus

      Doubtless if LEOs were held to the same standard of accountability as those they purport to serve and protect, there wouldn’t be many LEOs left. Do as we say, not as we do…

  • londontubes

    Here is the straight stuff on the law in Ohio:

    Ohio Revised Code-9.68 Right to bear arms – challenge to law.

    “(A) The individual right to keep and bear arms, being a
    fundamental individual right that predates the United States
    Constitution and Ohio Constitution, and being a constitutionally
    protected right in every part of Ohio, the general assembly finds the
    need to provide uniform laws throughout the state regulating the
    ownership, possession, purchase, other acquisition, transport,
    storage, carrying, sale, or other transfer of firearms, their
    components, and their ammunition. Except as specifically provided by the
    United States Constitution, Ohio Constitution, state law, or federal
    law, a person, without further license, permission, restriction, delay,
    or process, may own, possess, purchase, sell, transfer, transport,
    store, or keep any firearm, part of a firearm, its components, and its
    ammunition.

    (B) In addition to any other relief provided, the
    court shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees to any person,
    group, or entity that prevails in a challenge to an ordinance, rule, or
    regulation as being in conflict with this section.

    (C) As used in this section:

    (1)
    The possession, transporting, or carrying of firearms, their
    components, or their ammunition include, but are not limited to, the
    possession, transporting, or carrying, openly or concealed on a person’s person or concealed ready at hand, of firearms, their components, or their ammunition.”

    When you add in section (B), this should be a ‘slam dunk’ for the Northrups.

  • ADRoberts

    Bright is not so bright. And he is a coward.

  • elmcqueen3

    Those officers engaged in the tactics of a National Police State (Nazification) can issue any citation or cause for arrests which to most of us find to be dumbfounding to say the least…citing this person for “inducing a panic” is about as prepostorous a violation as this officer could imagine …What’s even more alarming is that the police constantly get away with issuing stupid citations which really mean or say nothing at all…Why do they make these uncalled for “stupid” arrests?…simply “because they can”.

  • Don Duncan

    The “reasonable suspicion” requirement (limit?) is useless if the police get to define “reasonable” as they often do. A judge usually gives them extreme leeway. This fact gives them more power than the average cop can handle, psychologically speaking. In short, a normal person becomes a brute, then a thug. This may account for the high rate of suicide in this profession, especially after retirement. The bad memories resulting from their inhuman behavior, the guilt, combine to make them victims of the policing system the public created and suffers from by allowing the initiation of violence on the irrational premise that it is practical or needed to protect. People need to identify this mistake as lose-lose and abolish it.

    The law enforcement system is not broken. It is showing what happens when brute force is unleashed, institutionalized, publicly supported. The only “fix” is abolition and replacement with private protection agencies because they exist by voluntary support.

  • Oldshooter

    This article fails to include some pertinent data. While I do still agree that the police officer acted excessively, he may have had some reason to suspect that Mr., and especially MRS., Northrup were acting in a threatening manner when he responded to the “man with a gun” call. The missing data include the fact that Mrs. Northrup not only told the motorcycle rider that it was legal to carry openly in Ohio, as did Mr. Northrup, but she also continued to engage the rider in apparently angry and contentious words, shouting at him until he had passed out of hearing range. Absent that behavior, he might not even have called 911 in the first place. Secondly, the motorcycle rider’s call probably included a statement to the effect that the couple were behaving oddly, and/or aggressively (which may have been a reasonable, if erroneous, belief on his part). Once the police officer arrived on the scene, Mr. Northrup DID refuse to show personal ID when requested by the officer. While this is technically within his rights, the officer apparently THOUGHT he had a good reason to demand ID, because the dispatcher had incorrectly advised the officer on the scene, that it was legal to carry openly in Ohio, but ONLY if the person had a concealed carry license. Hence, the officer may have thought he was confronting an aggressive, armed individual who was refusing to show ID because he lacked a CCW license, which would mean he was (in the officer’s erroneous belief) committing a felony while armed.

    There is really no excuse for LEOs to be unaware of their state’s laws regarding carrying firearms. After all, LEOs are more concerned with this issue, for personal safety reasons, than virtually any other issue, whenever they stop anyone, and the relevant laws are very few, straightforward, and easy to learn. In fact, CCW licensees themselves, are expected to know them, and usually have to pass a test on them before getting their license. So this lawsuit may have an uphill battle because of the behavior of the Northrups at the time. I DO think the officer behaved excessively; however, when this goes to trial (if it does) the jury will have to consider that the officer may have had significant reason to suspect he was engaged in a potentially dangerous “felony stop” with an armed and, at least verbally aggressive, individual, which will speak to his “reasonable” beliefs at the time of the false arrest.

    A corollary lesson here, is the need for anyone who carries legally (whether openly or concealed), always to be mindful of who you are with, especially if they know you are carrying, and to stop them immediately (or depart the scene, if necessary) should they start to behave aggressively, or in a way that YOU would not have done while carrying. In my experience, concealed carry guys tend to be the most responsible and mild mannered folks I know, especially when they are actually carrying, but some folks get a false sense of bravado from being accompanied by an armed person (anti-gun politicians immediately come to mind, but that’s another topic). I have a friend with a rather verbally aggressive wife, who says he often worries that his wife will “write checks with her mouth that (his) body won’t be able to cash.” Luckily he is not a CCW license holder and doesn’t carry a gun, so a mouthful of knuckles is probably the worst he’d encounter. But if he carried a gun, the situation would be potentially much more dangerous, both for him, and for those his wife unduly aggravates. For those of us who carry, it is wise to remember that allowing the person accompanying you to set in motion a string of events that could culminate in violence, especially potentially lethal violence, will not end well. Worse, YOU will be considered the responsible party, who will be accused of initiating the conflict (as occurred with Mr. Northrup), which will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to claim self-defense at trial.

  • Peleus

    I agree with what Sunshine Kid said. For example the residents of Inkster, MI have to pony up their share in the case [police brutality] the fellow won against the police department to the tune of 1,377,500 bucks So the tax payers pay the tab, the cop off the hook. Now it is only ~178 but it is still the principle of the thing.

    Besides we all just took a hit cause Wayne county can’t make the payment to workers pension fund and the taxpayers have to cover the promises that were made to the public sector folks too. So glad what’s his name said he ‘saved’ Detroit 😉

  • jlp5871

    I hope u get a million bucks.

  • carlcasino

    My State is also OPEN carry and we have concealed carry and enhanced concealed carry. When I step into the wood with my rifle, my sidearm is open with very easy access. When I go the bank my concealed carry is under wraps and not for public viewing. I have the advantage of small town and all the LEO’s know, usually, who is and who is not carrying. I carry my Enhanced license in a double case with my DL. See one-see all. At all the road blocks for license or DUI , all I ever get is a smile from the trooper and waved thru like I was the Governer.

  • Steven Swanson

    It sounds as if Brights last name should have been Stupid ! ! ! He Opened a Can of Worms for Cops across the Nation ! ! ! !

  • 0hiojoe

    I routinely open carry in my yard, because my Wife is scared of snakes and if I see one while on my tractor (after I ID it as a copper head or moccasin) he gets a dose of snake shot. Black racers or garter snakes are carried to the woods. So do I now have to worry that someone will ride by my home and become terrified that I am open carrying? The police should do annual refresher training (or even monthly) like we always had in the USAF, that would probably stop these mistakes and save a lot of lives and lawsuits in the future.

  • Herman Christian

    Here again is the evidence of brainwashed Boobus Americanus .
    From law enforcement to land use issues uninformed Americans calls are used to commit these crimes by enforcers . These jobs are complaint driven and how often is the word “safety ” involved that generated a swat raid or some other escalation that need not take place ?
    Our problem is the rank and file citizen that can’t resist harassing or through some misguide sense of duty , drop a dime on their neighbors ?
    Ever wonder why DHS propaganda is in Wal-Mart instead of the upper scale food stores ?
    The first brainwashed tier created by gov. shops there and tends to be the more instant gratification leaning types that will rat their neighbors out to the controllers for a sack of potatoes for a perceived benefit of duty to their masters and they rarely vote .
    The jack wad on the motorcycle is the real villain here ? Work to change that dumbass mindset along with prosecuting oath of office violators and you’ll be back on the road to a republic again .

  • Jim H

    Another example of the mindset of the typical Billy Badass LEO who has ended up believing his own hype. I hope he ends up living in a cardboard box and eating at the soup kitchen.

  • Dare Tuitt

    Can the busybody who dropped a dime on the legal gun owner be sued? He’s the one who started the ball rolling and created the panic.

  • coalburner9

    Everyone needs to recognize, there are professional busy bodys,some who make it a point to call 911 and lie about people who carry guns. This is a special problem in Ohio. Remember when they got the kid killed in Walmart with the toy gun. That was pre-meditated murder by Busybody. Beware!!!! Libtards can commit murder too.

  • MAS

    I hope he wins the suit but;

    Shawn Northrup has a CCW permit but chose to open carry in town? Ummm Shawn you give up a tactical advantage not to mention almost invite folk to act like the ninnies they are when you decide to open carry. People please stop this nonsense and learn to CCW for cryin’ out loud.

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