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.