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Judge Denies Police Officer Qualified Immunity After Arrested of Lawful Gun Carrier


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A federal judge rejected a Connecticut police officer’s request for qualified immunity after he arrested a man for carrying his legally processed gun.

Basel Soukaneh was driving his Kia Sorento in a high crime area in Waterbury, Connecticut, when the GPS on his iPhone froze up. The neighborhood is well-known for prostitution and drugs. Soukaneh pulled over his car to try to fix his phone that was in a phone holder. Officer David Andrzejewski noticed the stopped vehicle and started a traffic stop.

Officer Andrzejewski knocked on Mr. Soukaneh’s window. When Soukaneh rolled down the window and said “hi” to the officer, Soukaneh claimed that Andrzejewski screamed at him for his license. Soukaneh handed the police officer his license and gun permit. He informed Andrzejewski that he had a legally owned and carried pistol in the car with him. The cop grabbed Soukaneh and forcibly removed him from his Kia, and threw him on the ground.

Mr. Soukaneh claims that Officer Andrzejewski demanded that he tell the officer where the prostitute and drugs were located. The officer searched Soukaneh pulled out pills from the man’s pocket. The officer thought he found illicit drugs. In reality, what the officer discovered was Soukaneh’s nitroglycerin pills for his heart condition. In addition to the heart medication, the officer seized the $320 in cash plus a flash drive that contained pictures and videos of Soukaneh’s deceased father. Neither the flash drive nor the money was returned to Soukaneh.

The officer Handcuffed Soukaneh and threw him in the back of his police car. Soukaneh, who suffers from a bad back, screamed in pain. According to court records, the officer grabbed the handcuffs and jerked them, causing Soukaneh to be trapped in a position where he was partially on the floor of the back of the police cruiser, unable to see.

Officer Andrzejewski ran Soukaneh’s gun permit and found it to be valid. Shortly after, another officer and a sergeant arrived on the scene. Andrzejewski asked the two what he should “write him up for.” The sergeant told Andrzejewski what to write into the computer system.

Officer Andrzejewski claims that the initial stop was justified because he had “reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity.” He further states that the search of the vehicle and Soukaneh himself was based on probable cause. The officer claims that Soukaneh telling him that he was armed with a legally owned firearm with a valid permit was the probable cause needed to search the man and his vehicle.

Mr. Soukaneh is claiming that Officer Andrzejewski violated his Fourth Amendment rights by illegally searching him and his vehicle. He claims that the police officer didn’t have “reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity” to initiate the stop and that Officer Andrzejewski didn’t have probable cause for the search.

Officer Andrzejewski claims he is “entitled to qualified immunity because any violated rights were not clearly established.” According to the courts, “Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about legal questions.”

United States District Court, D. Connecticut Judge Janet Bond Arterton agreed that Officer Andrzejewski had reasonable suspicion due to the area where Soukaneh stopped his car. But Judge Arterton found that Officer Andrzejewski did not have probable cause to search Soukaneh’s car and person.

Moreover, Judge Bond Arterton stripped Andrzejewski of qualified immunity.

The Judge said, “no reasonable officer could believe probable cause was present.” According to Judge Bond Arterton, just because Soukaneh had a gun, it did not give the officer the right to act the way he did. The Judge said that any contrary holding “would eviscerate Fourth Amendment protections for lawfully armed individuals.”

Mr. Soukaneh’s lawsuit against Officer Andrzejewski will be allowed to continue.

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