An Ohio man had his legally owned gun confiscated by law enforcement officers, and it took him nine months to regain ownership of the pistol.
Cleveland resident Derrick Washington was arrested, released and never convicted of any crime, yet he had to file a federal lawsuit to recover his .38-caliber handgun. Even after the prosecuting attorney declined to prosecute Washington due to a lack of evidence, the legal gun owner was still unable to retrieve his firearm.
Washington’s nightmare began in February 2013 when Cleveland police officers were called to the scene of a possible shooting. During the police investigation, Washington informed the officers that his .38-caliber pistol was in his vehicle, noting as well that he possessed a valid concealed carry permit. The police report alleged that the Cleveland gun owner also stated that he had consumer two drinks of vodka – an assertion the man’s attorney denies.
Cleveland police officers searched Washington’s vehicle and then proceeded to haul him off to jail, where he spent three days. When the prosecuting attorney was presented with details from the case, he promptly dropped the charge due to a lack of evidence. Despite the lack of a pending criminal case, the Cleveland Police Department maintained possession of Washington’s pistol, citing a city ordinance which allowed it to do so.
An excerpt from the police report reads:
Based on information received from arresting officers, as well as the fact that Washington was not involved in the felonious assault-shooting, the prosecutor ruled no papers against Derrick Washington because of insufficient evidence. As a result, no criminal charges will be brought against Derrick Washington.
Washington’s ordeal should have ended there and he should have walked out of the Cleveland police station with his .38-caliber handgun – but he did not. Ohioans for Concealed Carry founder Jeff Garvas told The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, “It seems to me that Cleveland is stepping over the state law, yet again, with respect to firearms. The city cannot have its own confiscation ordinance, as state law preempts it.”
The local ordinance reportedly allows the police department to withhold seized weapons until a “court of competent jurisdiction” determines the weapon must be returned.
Story continues below video, which was recorded before police returned the gun.
Washington filed a lawsuit against the city of Cleveland in August, maintaining that his rights had been violated. Second Amendment advocates were understandably outraged by the gun confiscation case and came out in support of the Cleveland man.
Eventually, the city settled with Washington and gave him his gun back. But it took a lawsuit to have it returned.
“He could have bought a new gun for $500,” Gary Seewalk, Washington’s attorney, told the newspaper. But he wanted to go through this. … He wanted his gun. If you own a gun [in Cleveland] you’re a second-class citizen. Any other type of item seized by police during an investigation in which no charges are filed, the item is returned. But not a gun.”
What do you think about the Cleveland law? Let us know in the comments below.