HARRISONBURG, VA. (CN) – A sheriff’s deputy assaulted and unconstitutionally arrested a “slightly overweight out-of-shape bald headed” 66-year-old man for shooting a possum out of his window, and then finishing the critter off after he “moseyed over to the trap to see that the rodent was still alive,” Gerald Botkin claims in Federal Court.
Botkin says the sheriff’s deputy was called by a nervous neighbor named Myers, who “was feeling a little nervous due to strained relations with his daughter’s x-boyfriend who had just been released from jail or prison.” The neighbor apparently thought the gunshots might have been from his daughter’s ex, so he called deputies to say he was being shot at.
The complaint continues: “While the sheriff’s deputies was scurrying about looking for the x-boyfriend in one neighborhood, Botkin, aged 66, a slightly overweight out-of-shape bald headed man with a white beard put on a pair of short pants and a T-shirt, walked out the back door of his house on the other side of the green space and moseyed over to the trap to see that the rodent was still alive. Standing over the trap he fired a pistol down into the trap killing the rodent.
“The deputies unreasonably jumped to conclusions, left Myers’ neighborhood and ran the approximate length of three football fields, down the green space gully and up the other side to the surprise of Botkin who was standing in his back yard with the wind blowing in his ears. Although Botkin was obviously not a young buck, but looking more like an Amish elder, the deputies were yelling all the while pointing rifles at his chest. Botkin could not tell what they were yelling due to the wind and distance, did not notice any insignias indicating that they were law enforcement, but when some of them moved toward the woods, he concluded that there must be some danger in the woods and that the young men must have been directing him to move away from the woods. He slowly moved away from the woods a few steps when he heard the young men yelling for him to put his pistol down, which had remained pointed at the ground the entire time.”
Botkin says he never acted belligerently, complied with all orders, took the clip out of his pistol and lay it on the ground, but nonetheless was handcuffed, with his face pushed into the dirt.
“Despite Botkin’s protest that it was lawful for him to shoot the rodent in the County and the fact that the opossum lay dead and still warm, instead of accurately assessing the situation in the manner one might expect from trained and reasonable officers of the law, the [defendant Deputy J.F.] Bryant arrested Botkin without a warrant for alleged misdemeanors not committed in his presence and charged him with reckless use of a firearm … and obstruction”.
Botkin demands damages for constitutional violations, assault and battery, false imprisonment, and unconstitutional search of his home. He is represented by the learned and eloquent Thomas Roberts of Richmond.