David Barton has an annoying neighbor, Jill Porter. She feeds feral cats, who then traipse through the yards doing what feral cats do.
In November 2014, a feral cat attacked Barton’s daughter while she played on a backyard trampoline. Barton shot a BB gun at one of the legs of the trampoline to scare off the cat. Porter was in her yard. Barton yelled to her that the next feral cat to enter his yard would be a dead one.
Porter called the police and told them that Barton had said:
“Your gray cat just peed on my furniture, and he got shot in the head.”
That led to animal control worker Adam Manchester visiting Barton, who refused to come out of his home or provide identification. Barton explained to Manchester what had happened and that he’d never shot a cat.
Manchester reported to the police that Barton had admitted to shooting a cat, leading eight police officers in four cruisers to surround Barton’s home. Again, Barton told them what happened, but refused to come outside. He handed his ID to his mother-in-law who was on the front porch, who then passed it to police. At that point, police officer Dean Vann rushed into this home, pinned him on a wall, handcuffed him, and dragged him out of the house.
Barton sued the police officer Dean Vann for excessive force and illegal search and seizure, claiming Vann had no reason to come into his home and no warrant.
The District Judge issued a summary judgment for the officer, claiming he had immunity when acting within his official duty.
Last Friday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, claiming a limitation on that immunity when an officer breaches Constitutional rights. The appeals ruling will allow the case to go to court.
The 6th Circuit noted that no eye witness claimed to have seen Barton harm an animal, no harmed animal had been found, and no one claimed that Barton was a danger to himself, the people in the home, or the officers outside. Even if Barton had a gun in the home as Van claimed to be worried about, there’s no probable cause to enter a home just because a citizen possesses a weapon in that home.
The ruling appears to be common sense showing through at the federal appeals court level. Hopefully it will start a trend.