Five men who wore holstered firearms at a Madison restaurant last fall filed suit in federal court Tuesday, alleging police violated their constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizure.
The suit, the second filed in federal court in response to the incident, seeks to end a Madison police department policy of citing individuals who openly carry firearms with disorderly conduct after someone complains.
Unlike the first suit brought last fall by members of Wisconsin Carry Inc. who were not involved in the incident, the suit this week was brought by the five WCI members who were detained by police while they conducted criminal background checks on them. The suit seeks unspecified damages against the city and six police officers.
On Sept. 18 police responded to a Culver's restaurant near East Towne Mall and found five men openly carrying firearms at outdoor tables. Shawn Winrich and Frank Hannan Rock refused to identify themselves and were handcuffed, searched and arrested. Steve Jensen, Paul Fisher and Matthew Lutz gave their names to officers and were released after a background check.
Initially, Winrich and Rock were cited for obstructing police when they refused to identify themselves to officers. But those citations were rescinded and all five were later given tickets for disorderly conduct. The city eventually dropped those citations, too.
The suit alleges that detaining the men without reasonable suspicion that they had a committed or were about to commit a crime violated their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
City Attorney Michael May said he hadn't seen the suit as of Wednesday and had no comment on it except that the city intends to defend the actions of its police officers.
WCI attorney John Monroe said the questions raised by the suit are still relevant even though Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation this month allowing residents to carry concealed weapons.
"Also, open carry is still an option and some people may want to exercise that option," Monroe said.
Monroe filed a suit against Police Chief Noble Wray and the city last fall on behalf of other WCI members not involved in the Culver's incident. That suit claimed the city's announced policy of detaining people who openly carry weapons "chilled" their Second and Fourteenth amendments rights. That suit has been amended and continues before District Judge Barbara Crabb.