CHICAGO (CN) – An Illinois jail sergeant thrown out of a village meeting for carrying his gun may sue local officials and police for constitutional violations, a federal judge ruled.
Brad Sandefur, a Cook County jail sergeant, attended a Village of Hanover Park Board meeting to make “a presentation … regarding a water flow and icing problem that was occurring near his home,” according to the ruling.
Unlike the average villager, Sandefur came wearing his government-issued firearm in its holster – a fact that became evident when Sandefur raised his hands during the presentation.
Upon seeing the gun, several Woodridge officers physically restrained Sandefur. The restraint continued though Sandefur and a board member tried to tell the group that he was a law-enforcement officer.
Afterwards, officers “forcibly removed the handgun from Sandefur’s holster” and refused to allow him to show his law-enforcement identification, according to the ruling.
Even after it was finally discovered that Sandefur was, indeed, a law enforcement officer with the right to carry a gun off-duty, he was not allowed to return to the meeting since Village officials deemed that “he had already caused enough of a disturbance.”
The local newspaper later reported that the village manager commended the officers who restrained Sandefur as having “handled the situation very well.”
Sandefur sued village officials and the police for violation of his civil rights, and claimed that the village had failed to properly supervise its employees.
Although the court declined to depart from the principle that a city cannot be sued for civil-rights violations under a “respondeat superior” theory, it allowed Sandefur’s other claims to proceed. The complaint adequately pleads a First Amendment violation, since it claims that “[d]efendants deprived [Sandefur] of his right to free speech [and] assembly when they physically restrained and removed him from the open meeting,” Chief U.S. District Judge James Holderman wrote.
Sandefur’s complaint also meets the constitutional standard for an “unreasonable seizure” under the 14th Amendment, the ruling states. Although the village may be able to prove that its officers had the required “reasonable suspicion” for a brief arrest, or Terry stop, this will have to be decided on the facts.
The defendants must file an answer to Sandefur’s claims by June 23.