2 years, 2 months ago
A Warren man who is an advocate for firearm “open carry” practices is suing the city and its police department, claiming officers violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Jeffery Haman, 54, seeks a $100,000 judgment and $500,000 in punitive or exemplary damages, as part of the lawsuit he filed recently in U.S. District Court.
With a semi-automatic pistol holstered at his waist, Haman, a former firearms dealer, was walking home from a local drug store at 12 Mile and Hoover roads in August 2009 when a patrolman quickly drove up to him.
“At the first instant where I could see through the open passenger window, he had a gun pointed at me,” he said. “Then he came to a stop. As soon as I saw the gun, I put my hands up.”
Haman was ordered to lie on his stomach, with his hands outstretched. The officer handcuffed him and three additional officers in two patrol cars arrived.
“I asked him what his reason was for stopping me. He said, ‘You’re walking down the street with a gun.’ I said, ‘That’s perfectly legal, I’m open carrying.’”
Police took the .45 caliber handgun and his ammunition, and asked if he had documentation for the weapon. Haman said he showed a purchase receipt and a concealed-weapon permit although it’s not required for open carry.
In a police video of the incident, an officer is heard telling Haman: “You should at least call us and tell us what you’re doing. Walking around like this is just going to get you hurt somehow.
“You’re just asking for trouble, brother.”
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Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green, who along with former commissioner William Dwyer are defendants in the lawsuit, said Friday he had just received a copy but had not read it yet …
“We have to train and educate our troops when things like this happen,” said Green, “and we certainly do.”
Emphasizing that he was not commenting on the Haman case, the city’s top police administrator said any officer who sees a person carrying a firearm must quickly assess any potential threat.
“I don’t think a citizen would just want us to drive by and assume it’s an open carry situation,” Green said.
Haman explained the two-year lapse between the incident and the lawsuit was due to finding the right lawyer and unsuccessful efforts to try to meet with the city attorney in the hope of convincing the legal department to issue a memorandum to police on how to address open carry situations in public.
There are some very telling quotes in the article – gems that get to the heart of the problem. “You should at least call us and tell us what you’re doing” … “Walking around like this is just going to get you hurt somehow” … “You’re just asking for trouble, brother” … “any officer who sees a person carrying a firearm must quickly assess any potential threat” … “I don’t think a citizen would just want us to drive by and assume it’s an open carry situation” … “Safety’s first.”
“Safety’s first.” Right. So lets’ examine some of these positions in a little more detail after a few questions. Before we exercise our right to free speech or religion, must we contact law enforcement to inform them? Has the police commissioner polled the citizens to see what they expect concerning open carry, or has he just assumed that he knows? How will walking around with a weapon get someone hurt? Who will hurt them and for what purpose? Why didn’t the police commissioner educate his officers (not “troops”) to understand that Michigan is a traditional open carry state? Why didn’t the police commissioner educate his officers to understand that Michigan has no stop and identify statute? Do his officers routinely unholster and aim their weapons at people who are not violating any law?
A bit more background before I make several observations. I open carry, and it’s not because I am trying to make some sort of political point. I walk my dog, and in the afternoons here in Charlotte, N.C., it can reach 100 degrees F in the summer, even late in the afternoon. I got tired of sweating all over my weapon when I concealed it. I suppose I could use something that lifted my weapon off of my body like a super-tuck holster, but the last thing I want on a 100 F day is to put a slab of leather next to my body to get wet and salty and make me more hot than I already am.
So I have been open carrying for a number of months now. Women and children don’t go running home and screaming in fear for their lives. People don’t scatter when they see me. On the contrary, many people stop to talk and pet my dog. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police (Baker 2) drive by often, smile, and wave – or simply ignore me. My time open carrying has been completely uneventful. No one has been harmed, no one has sought to harm me, and most importantly, no out-of-control police officer has unholstered his weapon and aimed it at me.
In fact, I use extreme discipline when I carry my weapon. I have never unholstered it when I am in public. If I did, someone could charge me with brandishing a weapon, and properly so. Not so for the Warren Police, apparently. If safety is first for the Warren Police, then why did this officer unholster his weapon and aim it at someone who wasn’t violating any statue or law?
There are two cardinal sins for any firearm owner. Lack of muzzle discipline, and lack of trigger discipline. Sweeping someone with a muzzle is forbidden in the superlative, and this officer pointed his at an innocent citizen. If he had been lacking trigger discipline – like other incompetent LEOs – he might just have killed someone with a negligent discharge.
So the salient question is this. Who is the one who supplied the safety in the situation; Mr. Haman who held up his hands, or the police officer? I think that the answer is clear to any thinking man. And with a little more thought, it isn’t hard to ascertain the cultural basis for this kind of behavior.
It’s okay if an officer has a negligent discharge and kills an innocent man (we’ll just find “analysts” who say that it was something procedural). It’s okay if police officers fire off 71 stray bullets in a shootout and kill an innocent bystander (whereas I would have been charged with second degree murder if I attempted to defend myself and ended up shooting a bystander). It’s okay if a SWAT team terrorizes the Guerena family, killing former Marine Jose Guerena, and fail to recover a single shred of incriminating evidence for the raid. And it’s okay if a Warren police officer unholsters his weapon on an innocent citizen who is obeying all laws. We shouldn’t expect him to know or understand the law, whereas I would be jailed for brandishing a weapon if I did something like that.
You see, they are sworn law enforcement officers, and they are entitled to these things. I, on the other hand, cannot be trusted with a firearm, any more than Mr. Haman. How disciplined I am with a firearm has nothing to do with it. I’m not a sworn LEO.
So there you have it. Prejudice and bigotry on display. It is the intellectual edifice they have built for so many years. This officer overreacted during the incident by unholstering his weapon and losing his muzzle discipline. I could never get away with that. But the real problem is manifest by the refusal properly to educate the officers on the open carry tradition and (lack of) stop and identify statutes. Did you catch that? The police commission refuses to issue a memorandum.
A memorandum to educate his officers. Good grief. A memorandum could have made this whole ugly scene go away, and they are too proud to do it. Prejudice and bigotry.
And speaking of prejudice and bigotry, I notice that my sister state, South Carolina, forbids open carry (causing me some moderate inconveniences). It’s about time for some thoughtful congressman to put forward a bill to bring S.C. into the 21st century. Michigan is already there, even if their police aren’t.