Wisconsin Carry, Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Brookfield, WI and four Brookfield Police officers, after the po-po arrested one of their members back on the fourth of July, 2010. [Click here for a copy of the lawsuit.] TTAG covered this case; Wisconsin Carry’s press release [after the jump] fails to make it clear that the woman in question was NOT a member of the congregation. Also unmentioned: Ms. Sutterfield received a citation for driving with a loaded Glock in a zipped case on the passenger seat. When I interviewed Ms Sutterfield, it was clear to me she knew her actions would be inflammatory to members of a church with whom she had no previous affiliation. Given that the Unitarian Church Board is on record as freaking out, this is not a slam dunk . . .

Our member who has been a victim of violent crime in the past openly carries a sidearm for personal protection as Wisconsin law allows.  On July 4th she was attending church services in Brookfield, WI.  After the service, a church member called the non-emergency number of the Brookfield Police Department to inquire as to the legality of open-carry.  Brookfield Police responded to the call by sending several officers/squads to the church.  On the way to the church the officers were made aware by the dispatcher that our member was not being threatening or creating a disturbance.  As our member was leaving the parking lot in her vehicle.  A Brookfield Police officer waved her down drew his weapon and ordered her out of her car at gunpoint.

As open-carry is perfectly legal in Wisconsin and the officers were aware our member had threatened no one and caused no disturbance, the officers had no reasonable articulable suspicion, which the law requires, to stop and detain our member against her will.  In addition, by drawing their guns on a law-abiding citizen who had done nothing wrong, the officers used an unlawful threat of deadly force during their unlawful detainment of our member.  The police proceeded to, without reasonable suspicion or probable cause that any crime had occurred, conduct an unlawful and unconstitutional search of our members person and car.  Our member was then unlawfully arrested and taken to the Brookfield Police Department for processing.

Wisconsin Carry has filed this lawsuit to obtain damages on behalf of our member for the unlawful arrest and violations of her civil rights by the Brookfield Police Department.  On behalf of our members all across the state, Wisconsin Carry continues to establish a precedent that departments who violate the rights of law-abiding Wisconsinites who legally carry in the only manner Wisconsin Law allows “open carry” will face legal consequences.

In a virtually identical situation in San Diego, CA a person lawfully open carrying was detained/arrested in a similar manner.  Within the last few weeks that case resulted in a $35,000 settlement from the City of San Diego paid to the man unlawfully arrested at gunpoint. Click here for details of that case.

Wisconsin Carry, Inc. has also obtained a $10,000 judgement in Federal Court against the city of Racine earlier this year for an unlawful arrest of one of our members who was approached by police merely because he was legally open carrying.

Wisconsin Carry is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the protection and expansion of the right to carry in Wisconsin.  We believe that “conceal carry” and “open carry” are choices to be made by the law-abiding citizen based on their own preference, not the government’s.  As open carry is generally the only legal way to exercise the right to carry in Wisconsin provided by our state and federal constitution, we advocate that people who wish to carry follow the law and open carry while our organization seeks to expand the right right to carry in Wisconsin to include conceal carry.  Our website is www.wisconsincarry.org

Carry On,

Nik Clark
Chairman/President – Wisconsin Carry, Inc.
nik@wisconsincarry.org

13 Responses to Wisconsin Carry Sues Brookfield Over Arrested Church-Goer

  1. It sounds to me like Ms. Sutterfiled went to that service looking to pick a fight (metaphorically). As anyone who's ever argued from a position of strength with their wife and still lost can tell you; sometimes, just being right isn't enough.

    While the officers who responded to the call overstepped their bounds, Ms. Sutterfield showed no respect for the religous services she interrupted simply so she could martyr herself for a cause. Did it occur to her that the actual members of that congregation went there to learn a lesson about their personal faith NOT to have an "outsider's" socio-political agenda foisted upon them during a time of spiritual refelction? I support the right to open carry, but, in my opinion, this type of stuff gives the movement a black eye.

    • Should Rosa Parks have moved to the back of the bus so as to not disturb bus service?
      Or dozens of other African Americans never tried to sit a lunch counters that discriminated against them?

      Sorry but I think that the Unitarian Church body has jumped into this issue with both feet and therefore this is a valid exercise of rights.

      Also, notice that she didn't make a fuss during service, she didn't disturb the service or draw attention to herself by doing anything else but exercising her rights.

      I'll also point out that the church had a prime opportunity to engage Ms. Sutterfield as Christ would have done — in conversation and they didn't. Did someone greet her when she can in, did they greet her when she sat down next to her? Doesn't sound like it.

      Sounds like their bigotry was exposed "the gun was scary" and instead of responding in love they responded in fear. Instead of responding in openness, they responded with prejudice.

    • “went to that service looking to pick a fight (metaphorically)… showed no respect for the religous services she interrupted”
      I’ve said before, to many reporters (including TTAG) that I went to church to… go to church. To hear the sermon they advertised, which was about civil rights & civility in public life. Ironic.

      I’ve said before, to many reporters (including TTAG) that I’d been to that church before several times. Some other parishoners recognized me. I was considering becoming a member. In fact, in the phone call they say “she’s standing at our membership table”.

      I did not interrupt the service at all. I participated in singing, etc., just as everyone else did. I had conversations with other parishoners afterwards, just as many other people did.

      The call to police was on the nonemergency line AFTER the service, and they agreed to being put on hold. They clearly said I was not being threatening.
      Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz3KCf2l9QI

  2. I don't think Rosa Parks is the best analogy. She was taking the bus to get from point A to point B, or so I've heard. Not being confrontational. Or so I've heard. More to the point, it wasn't a private bus service. Was it? Anyway . . .

    Although Ms. Settlefield is as hard to pin down as an eel on a Slip 'N Slide, I still feel her presence was deliberately provocative. If she really wanted to simply monitor the church service, she should have introduced herself to, well, someone. I repeat SHE should have engaged THEM. She was a visitor.

    Legally, she may have been within her rights. The court will decide. But morally, it was not the right thing to do. IMHO.

    • “Ms. Settlefield [sic] is as hard to pin down as an eel on a Slip ‘N Slide”
      And you base this on what? We talked on the phone for quite a while.
      You can also find various TV interviews of me, and all say the same things.

      “I still feel her presence was deliberately provocative. If she really wanted to simply monitor the church service, she should have introduced herself to, well, someone. I repeat SHE should have engaged THEM.”
      Since I carry pretty much everywhere I go, which is a protected right,
      and I chose to go to church that morning, which is also a protected right,
      and I was doing nothing illegal, not being threatening, etc. (read the witness statements in the police reports),
      HOW exactly was I being provacative? How is peacefully exercising rights ‘provacative’? I behaved exactly like every other person there. Most people never noticed I was armed, which is exactly what usually happens.

      People who saw me come in to the church a bit after 9am saw the gun and were unable to identify it as a gun, even though it’s black, my holster is black, I was wearing a white shirt, tan pants, and it was openly carried in plain sight, as required by law.

      Several people talked with me before and after the service. I engaged them, just like you want. The police arrived as I was leaving about 10:45. A whole 90 minutes of engaging people, being non-provacative, etc.

  3. Robert,

    I completely disagree with you on who should reach out in a church service. Joining a group of people can be intimidating, it is up to the congregation to make the visitors feel welcome, not the other way around.

    Followers of Christ are urged to reach out to people, not exclude them. Followers of Christ are supposed to welcome people into their midst, not turn a cold shoulder based on looks or dress.

    Rosa Parks was one analogy and I gave many others.
    How about the integration of schools, both primary and secondary?

    Should the African American students gone out of their way to introduce themselves to the people ?

    Or the lunch counter protests — should the protesters have gone around trying to shake everyone's hands?

    Nope and that should be obvious.

    Rosa Parks was trying to be confrontational, so were all the other protesters — what they did was non-violent protesting and it changed America. How is this any different?

    From the Universal Unitarian church website–Principles

    The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

    Did they treat her with dignity? Doesn't appear so.

    Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

    Yeah, they really accepted her,. Accepted her so much they called the cops on her without even talking to her.

    The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

    Democratic process — right to assemble, right to free speech — exactly how did the congregation express this with regard to her 'right of conscience'?

    Since the Unitarians are politically and socially active; how is it morally wrong to confront them on their beliefs?

    BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1976 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges upon
    the government of the United States the passage of legislation which would prohibit ownership or
    possession of all handguns, except for: law enforcement officers; members of the armed forces; guards
    and messengers while on duty; licensed pistol clubs for on-premise use; owners of permanently
    inoperable handguns; and manufacturers, wholesalers, and dealers as merchandise onl; and.
    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That such legislation provide for strict control of handgun ammunition and
    specify security measures to guard against theft or exempted handguns and ammunition, a six-month
    period wherein handguns may be surrendered in return for reasonable compensation, and that the
    unlawful possession of a handgun shall be made a felony.

    Page 61 – http://www.uua.org/documents/uua/socialjusticesta

    Efforts to restrict our rights need to be confronted where they occur; be it at the lunch counter, on the bus or in a church pew.

    • Bob, I appreciate your support, and your well-reasoned & researched replies.
      But in general, Unitarians are not Christians. Some probably are, but most aren’t. So holding them to Christian standards doesn’t make sense.
      Holding them up to their _own_ principles, OTOH, shows how far off base this congregation is.

    • Bob, your link is dead and I was unable to find the resolution you quoted. However, I did find this little tidbit.
      Civil Liberties 1963 General Resolution

      WHEREAS, the United States is founded on the principles of individual rights and civil liberties, embodied in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution; and

      WHEREAS, for several years these individual rights and civil liberties have been under attack by various elements of our society, resulting in the need for continual vigilance and positive action; and

      THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That this General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association calls upon the President, Attorney General and all of the duly constituted authorities to act decisively and at once to protect the Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights of American citizens throughout the United States, and to call to account those who violate these guaranteed civil rights.
      If this is what they truly believe, than they should join Wisconsin Carry in the lawsuit. I do not have a problem with them using the non-emergency number to inquire as to the legality of open carry. After all if you weren’t sure if someone was carrying a gun legally or not, wouldn’t you be a little nervous approaching them about it?

  4. You make some greta points Bob, and I agree that the Congregation has the duty to extend the hand of fellowship. Never the less, I still fail to see how exactly anything positive came of this particular demonstration. In all the other instances you cited, the protesters enganged their "adversaries" within the context of their dissatisfaction: Rosa Parks on the bus, Lunch Counter Protesters AT the Lunch Counter, etc. The church goers here, to my knowledge, never spoke or acted out against open carry (likely its the contrary) and didn't realize their church had become the battle ground for a fight they didn't know they were in.

    Also, getting cited for carelessly breaking a related law during her protest (agree with it or not) does nothing to support her cause. Rather it reinforces the image of her as careless and immature. The whole thing comes off as "amaturish".

    • Zealot,

      Did you not read the passage I quoted from their website?

      That the 1976 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges upon
      the government of the United States the passage of legislation which would prohibit ownership or
      possession of all handguns, except for: law enforcement officers; members of the armed forces; guards

      The Unitarian church isn't just against Open Carry but all civilian possession of firearms.

      As for what good came out of it?

      How about the fact that an Open Carry advocate, however much an amateur, peacefully, quietly and respectfully countered some of the perceptions regarding gun owners?

      Let's play word substitution and see if you would see if exposing the church's bigotry would be something positive?

      The Church Staffer called the police on a Open Carry Advocate African American who entered the church to protest their stance on firearms racism. Instead of reaching out to the newcomer, the church called the police because her firearm mere appearance made them uncomfortable.

      Is it bigotry or not? Should it be peacefully confronted or not?

      As for as the church not being aware of being a battle ground or not; this issue has came up in the church in the last couple of years due to church shootings, especially the one in Tennessee. That information is available on the church's website.

      • I think you need to check the facts. Ms Sutterfield was not making a statement of protest, she was just going to church. A church she attended occasionally.

        The church staff person called a non-emergency number and inquired about the legality of the open carry. Certainty you're not implying that if one observes something, and is unclear about the legality of what was seen, he/she cannnot inquire about it?

        The issue is how she was treated by the Brookfield police.

    • I still fail to see how exactly anything positive came of this particular demonstration”
      Oh, for the love of little green apples…
      This was not a ‘demonstration’. I didn’t go there ‘to make a point’.
      I went to hear the sermon they advertised.

      As for what good has come of this, the PD has been educated. Actually, they had a memo from their Chief more than a year before talking about how to deal with open carry situations and ignored it, so they’ve been re-educated. A copy of the memo is available on the http://www.wisconsincarry.org website – hover over the ‘legal’ button in the upper right, click on ‘Brookfield lawsuit’, then scroll down the page.

      That same memo very clearly and explicitly told them they could not arrest for what they claim to have arrested me for (improper transport). So again, they ignored their training, and the law.
      In addition, the community has been educated that open carry is legal and that sometimes the police ignore the law.

      getting cited for carelessly breaking a related law
      I was not, and have never been, cited for improper transport.
      Courts have already ruled that someone telling an officer that someone else is carrying a gun is not RAS for a stop of that person, let alone their car.
      Since the stop was illegal, everything that happened after that was illegal.
      On top of that, the search of my (locked, closed) car was against my explicit denial of consent to a search, and their further search of a completely closed case within that car also didn’t have a warrant or PC to suspect that I was committing a crime.

  5. Again, I'm not against open carry or folks working to expand that right if they wish. However, this facet of the 2nd Amendement cause is especially a public perception issue (that's pretty much the point behind doing "normal" things like going to a church) so what folks on the other end of the spectrum from you and me perceive as having gone down is especially important here.

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