A Michigan man who was handcuffed and thrown in the back of a patrol car for taking photos in front of a Kohl’s department store reached a settlement from a federal lawsuit last week.
The settlement is confidential, which will no doubt infuriate many purists, but even a jury trial victory would not have guaranteed any disciplinary action against the Meridian Township Police Department, specifically Andrew Tobias, the officer who told Roy Stephens that it was illegal to photograph people in public.
The incident took place on October 7, 2012 when Stephens was testing out a new camera outside the store while his wife shopped inside.
According to Michigan Live:
Tobias told Stephens he had been dispatched to a report of suspicious activity, and asked Stephens about the substance of the photos, Nicholas Leydort, attorney for Stephens, said in court documents.
Stephens then showed the images on his camera. He tried to explain he did nothing wrong, but the officer continued to question him about the substance of the images, Leydorf said.
“Specifically, (the officer) indicated if (Stephens) had taken pictures of children while in Kohl’s parking lot, then ‘we have an issue,’” Leydorf wrote.
When the officer asked Stephens for identification, he said he did not have it on him because he was not driving. He told the officer he had a heart problem and had done nothing wrong. He said the officer told him to get out of his vehicle and physically escorted him to his patrol car.
He put Stephens in back and shut the door, locking Stephens in. Stephens then said he needed his heart medication because he felt like he was going to pass out. He pleaded with the officer to look at the photos because he had done nothing wrong.
Tobias eventually released Stephens after determining no crime was committed, even though that should have been obvious from the get-go.