Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Another Wisconsin Open Carry Lawsuit

Wisconsin Carry and attorney John Monroe have been busy beavers. Or is that badgers.

Little more than a week after they sued the City of Madison and Chief Noble Wray, they are suing the City of Brookfield (Wisconsin) and four Brookfield Police Department officers in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The city and officers stand accused of violating the civil rights of Krysta Sutterfield by performing an illegal search and seizure among other things.

Ms. Sutterfield was attending services at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brookfield on July 4th of this year. After church services ended, a church member called the non-emergency number of the Brookfield Police Department and asked whether it was legal to open carry. The BPD responded by sending several officers and cars to the church. The caller pointed out Ms. Sutterfield to one of the officers as she was driving out of the church parking lot.

According to the complaint, one of the officers stopped Ms. Sutterfield's car and drew his weapon. Another officer then appeared on the scene and also drew his weapon. She was ordered out of the car, handcuffed, and then her car was searched without her permission. One of the officers found Ms. Sutterfield's handgun in the car enclosed in a securely zippered case. They then placed her under arrest for "illegally transporting a firearm." However, the prior April the Brookfield PD had circulated a memo from the Chief of Police informing all officers that illegal transport of a firearm was not an arrestable offense in the State of Wisconsin. Ms. Sutterfield was taken to the Brookfield Police Department where she was questioned, booked, and then released.

The local district attorney declined to prosecute the case because he determined:
that the Defendents had no probable cause to stop Sutterfield and to search her car, as no criminal acts had been reported to Defendents at the time of the stop and search.
The Brookfield Police Department still maintains a record of Ms. Sutterfield's arrest which is also an item of contention in the lawsuit.

The Defendents are accused of violating Sutterfield's 14th Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, her 14th Amendment rights to due process, of using an unreasonable amount of force, and by harrassing her for open carry they infringed her rights to keep and bear arms. The Court is being asked for an injunction prohibiting the individual police officers from "detaining, searching, or arresting" individuals who are lawfully open carrying. Another injunction is being requested to expunge the record of Ms. Satterfield's arrest. Finally, the plaintiffs are asking for a declaration stating that "openly carrying firearms, without more, is not a criminal act."

Ms. Sutterfield had been the victim of violent crime in the past and this is why she now open carrys. To be frank, you don't often hear the words Unitarian and open carry in the same sentence. Indeed the church has passed resolutions calling for more gun control.

This case is very similar to the California case of Wolanyk v. San Diego which was discussed in an earlier post. I wouldn't be surprised if an out-of-court settlement isn't also reached in this case.

H/T SayUncle

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