The lesson from a recent police action in Muskogee, Oklahoma, is that if you see a suspected drug deal, you might not want to call the cops.
After all, that’s what Devon Sullivan, a reserve police officer for the city, did when he saw a parking-lot encounter that looked suspicious.
But in the end, his apartment was searched by his fellow officers, his legally owned guns were confiscated and he was charged with drug counts – until he produced prescriptions showing they were legitimate medications.
The case is being handled by the Rutherford Institute, which explained the Fourth Amendment lawsuit was filed for “wrongfully subjecting a reserve police officer to a warrantless entry and search of his home and seizure of his lawful firearms and prescription medications.”
The officer, Sullivan, was subjected to the indignities after he “called police dispatch to report suspicious drug activity near his apartment.”
Rutherford charges in its complaint that Muskogee police acted without a warrant and without probable case, entered and searched Sullivan’s home, confiscated and kept his lawfully owned firearms for an extended amount of time. They then forced Sullivan to engage in protracted legal proceedings to have his firearms returned to him.
“This case epitomizes everything that is wrong with the nation’s system of law enforcement. Here is a man – a reserve police officer, no less – who reported suspicious activity to the police only to find himself being subjected to lawless police state tactics,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, Rutherford’s president.
“The solution is not to give the police special treatment under the law, but to ensure that all Americans are equally afforded the robust protections afforded by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
It was, the complaint explains, two years ago when Sullivan saw the suspected drug deal.
He called dispatch.
“An on-duty Muskogee police officer overheard Sullivan’s report, proceeded to the vicinity of Sullivan’s apartment, and radioed Sullivan to call him and provide more information. Although the dispatcher asked Sullivan about shots being fired, Sullivan told both the dispatcher and the officer that no shots had been fired, but that his report was only his suspicion that drug activity was occurring outside his apartment. The officer asked Sullivan to meet him at a convenience store near the apartment and both proceeded to the store.”
Meanwhile, four other officers were in the vicinity, and they all met at the store.
“The officers began questioning Sullivan and conducted a pat-down search of him and seized a firearm he was carrying in his capacity as a reserve police officer. The police also discovered pills in Sullivan’s pocket, which they identified as controlled substances. One of the officers then went to Sullivan’s apartment complex, obtained a key to his apartment from the manager, entered the apartment and conducted a search,” Rutherford says.
Defendants are Matthew Burleson, AJ Solis Jr., Garrett Dunlap, Danny Dupont and Andy Simmons.
The complaint explains the officers had been told by Lt. Devin Beach and Deputy Chief Chad Farmer that Sullivan “was going through ‘marriage issues’ and could possibly be unstable” just minutes earlier.
The complaint contains no indication that the officers ever checked out the suspicion of drug dealing.