Three judges on a panel at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals soon will be issuing a decision on whether police officers in Westland, Michigan, who arrested a pro-life activist after pro-abortion forces complained she had made a “bomb” threat, acted appropriately.
The question arose because while the officers said they had to arrest and detain Kimberly Thames because of allegations of that threat, they took none of the other procedures that would be routine if they considered the threat to be a serious one.
For example, they didn’t evacuate the building allegedly targeted by the threat. They didn’t call the bomb squad. They refused to ask for a bomb-sniffing dog. They performed only a cursory search of the woman’s car.
The officers’ failure to take ordinary defensive measures – if, in fact, they considered the “threat,” which Thames denied making, serious – was cited earlier by U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.
At the lower court level was revealed that when the officers were presented with the claim that a threat had been made, from a guard at the Northland abortion center, they ignored what could have been a real danger.
“The evidence suggests that defendant officers did not consider the statement to be a true threat as they did not direct evacuation of the clinic, did not request the assistance of a bomb squad, did not request the assistance of a bomb sniffing dog, did not search the clinic for a bomb, did not search the surrounding area for a bomb, did not search the adjacent parking lot for a bomb, did not search the dumpster for a bomb, and did not impound Thames’ vehicle for fear that a bomb might be planted in it,” Steeh wrote.
His decision required the police officers to face a jury trial on Thames lawsuit against them for compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages for the improper arrest.
The claims originally were filed against Northland Family Planning Clinic and employees “John Doe,” Renee Chelian and Mary Guilbernat, the city of Westland and its police department, Chief Jason Soulliere, officers John Gatti, Adam Tardif and Norman Brooks.
Some defendants later were dropped.
CourthouseNews reported that the appeals court panel heard arguments in the dispute recently.
CN reported a security guard for the abortionists claimed Thames said, “I prophesy bombs, I prophesy bombs. There is going to be a bombing in the near future.”
The 57-year-old Roman Catholic said she made no such statements, but was arrested anyway.
Authorities held her for two days, then declined to charge her with a crime.
She sued for violations of her First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights. The officers claimed they were immune from lawsuits.
The report said, “Judge Steeh cited the following evidence in his opinion: ‘(1) Sergeant Brooks who ordered the arrest, testified that ‘you can’t say anything about bombs near a facility that performs abortions,’; (2) Defendant Brooks referred to people who protest on behalf of the unborn as ‘fanatics,’; (3) Defendant Gatti told the religious sister who was protesting alongside Thames that ‘You should not be in the position you are in, you’re a disgrace, and (4) Defendant Gatti testified, ‘the comments that were made by her, it’s a very politically religiously charged issue.””
The officers want the appeals court to grant them immunity.
Attorney Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center explained to the judges there was no probable cause to arrest his client, especially in light of the actions taken by officers after they arrived at the clinic.
“They did nothing,” the attorney said.
WND reported when the case developed that Thames was holding a sign and praying outside the abortion business, as she often did. According to the American Freedom Law Center, which is representing her, along with the Thomas More Society of Chicago, she had a conversation with an unidentified security guard, who then called police and fabricated a story about her threatening the business with a bomb.
The officers arrested her, and she was detained over a weekend.
Muise explained the “pain, suffering and humiliation Ms. Thames endured at the hands of these city officials is shocking to the conscience.”
“And Ms. Thames’ unlawful arrest and false imprisonment were instigated, directed and encouraged by Northland and its agents. We intend to hold all parties liable for this injustice.”