Rifle-Toting Teen Sues City of Birmingham for Violating His Civil Rights
Sean Combs, 18, was arrested for carrying a rifle in downtown Birmingham in April; he was found not guilty of disturbing the peace and brandishing a firearm in July.
UPDATED 5:20 p.m.: Sean Combs, the 18-year-old Troy resident who was arrested in April for openly carrying his loaded rifle through downtown Birmingham, filed a lawsuit Friday at Michigan Eastern District Court in Detroit alleging the City of Birmingham and three officers from the Birmingham Police Department violated his civil rights when they arrested him in April.
Combs was found not guilty of brandishing a firearm and disturbing the peace by a seven-member jury on July 12 at 48th District Court in Bloomfield Township. A third charge of obstructing an officer was dismissed during trial due to lack of evidence.
"I tried being nice," said Combs, a recent Troy High School graduate who currently attends Oakland Community College. "They turned down the initial settlement."
The lawsuit was filed Friday against the City of Birmingham as well as Birmingham Police Lt. Michael Albrecht and officers Rebekah Springer and Gina Potts, who arrested Combs in April.
In total, Combs is suing the city and its police officers for one count of false arrest, one count of false imprisonment, one count of malicious prosecution, one count of second amendment violation and one count of municipal liability.
City attorney Tim Currier told the Detroit Free Press the complaint will be fought, adding that police didn’t do anything wrong.
Concerning the initial settlement proposed by Combs and his new attorney, Matthew Kolodziejski, Birmingham City Manager Bob Bruner said the city's liability insurance agent — Meadowbrook Insurance Group — received a verbal demand of $40,000 on Sept. 10 as part of Combs' initial complaint.
According to Bruner, the city took no further action on the complaint and didn't hear from Combs until Kolodziejski filed the lawsuit Friday.
Combs said he and Kolodziejski haven't decided on an official dollar amount, though he still plans on suing for around $40,000. Combs said fees for his previous attorney, Jim Makowski — a Dearborn-based attorney specializing in Second Amendment issues — amounted to roughly $6,000 and weren't reimbursed by the city following the not-guilty verdict in July.
"I just want them to admit guilt," Combs said. "I just want them to say, 'we screwed up.'" He added that an apology now would be "too little, too late."
A court date has not yet been set.
According to the lawsuit, Birmingham police officers falsely testified during Combs' trial, telling the court that Combs did not provide idenfication and acted in a "loud and unruly manner."
However, the civil suit notes that "Mr. Combs complied with the Defendant Police Officers' request to provide his identification," handing his driver's license to one of the officers. It was after this that he was arrested, the lawsuit reads.
"All Defendant Police Officers acted under color of law but contrary to law,and intentionally and unreasonably deprived Mr. Combs of rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the Constitution (and) laws of the United States," the lawsuit reads.
Teen's initial arrest spurs open carry protests in Birmingham
Combs was arrested on April 13 after he was stopped by two Birmingham Police officers while he had his loaded M1 Garand rifle slung over his shoulder. When officers asked for identification, Combs refused.
As an adult, Combs was legally able to carry the rifle — a birthday present from an older brother — and under Michigan law, he wasn't required to show police ID.
Combs' arrest caused an uproar in the open carry community, which has since rallied around Combs to show support.
Open carry advocates, many of whom learned about Combs' case on opencarry.org, have gathered as a group in Birmingham's Shain Park twice now — once in June and again in July — while openly carrying rifles and pistols in support of Combs. In late July, Combs gathered with fellow open carry advocates at Shain Park while openly carrying his rifle for the first time since his trial.