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A federal lawsuit was filed Monday against three Putnam County deputies and the Putnam County Commission after a Scott Depot man, who was legally carrying a gun in plain view, was arrested for obstruction of justice.

The deputies are being sued on three counts of unreasonable search and seizure, one of which is for false arrest, and bystander liability. The County Commission is being sued because there is evidence that these incidents occurred multiple times, according to the lawsuit.

Michael Walker was arrested in December 2016, according to the police report. Later, Walker went to trial and was found not guilty. In February 2017, there was a second incident captured on video that depicts yelling and vulgar name calling from the officer.

Walker’s attorney, John Bryan, said though the language used in the video is jarring, that’s not the most important part about it. The video is a key piece of evidence that shows patterned behavior, he said.

In the video the officer tells Walker, “If I see you have a gun, I can run your name, check you, and see whether you can possess it or not, and don’t tell me that I can’t neither, because I do it every day and I arrest people every day for it.”

But that’s the opposite of the law, Bryan said. In an open carry state, police are not allowed to make an investigatory detention and ask for identification, unless they have individualized knowledge of a reason why a person can’t have a weapon, he said.

“The video shows how officers treat regular everyday people, but more importantly, it shows what is to be a large pattern of civil rights violations throughout this department,” Bryan said.

Putnam emergency dispatchers ran a background check on Walker, which showed he was not prohibited from having a weapon. However, the officers shouldn’t have to done it in the first place, Bryan said.

“They can’t just go on a fishing expedition,” Bryan said.

He added that it is preferable to sue the county. He said a jury would be more understanding if a county would be paying any damages or compensation and not individual police officers.

The officer knew he was being recorded at the time, Bryan said. If Walker wasn’t recording the incident, Bryan said he thinks it would have gone differently for him.

“What would have happened if he had not been filming this? I strongly believe he would have been arrested for this, that, and the other,” Bryan said.

The most outrageous part of the case that will get people’s attention is the video, Bryan said. But he thinks the most egregious part of it all was the arrest made two months prior.

Walker was at a friends home when he was arrested in December 2016. There was a domestic dispute, in which Walker wasn’t involved, and the police were called.

M.H. Lovejoy responded to the call and had been at the scene for approximately 30 to 45 minutes before noticing Walker was openly carrying a pistol, according to court filings.

Lovejoy then told Walker he was confiscating the pistol. He wrote in the police report that Walker refused to give it up.

“Basically [Lovejoy] lays out in his own statement that he arrested him for open carrying and not surrendering his weapon,” Bryan said.

The lawsuit states that Walker told the officer that he would just leave the property, but Lovejoy said he was not allowed to leave.

Lovejoy attempted to remove the pistol from Walker’s “Serpa” retention holster, which locks the pistol into the holster unless a specific button is pushed to release it. The deputy apparently didn’t know how to work the holster, the suit alleged. He kept attempting to pull the pistol out, and it wouldn’t release, according to the complaint. Another officer showed him how to do it, and then Lovejoy confiscated the pistol.

“You know what, I’ll just go ahead and arrest you for obstruction,” Lovejoy said, according to the complaint.

Walker was in jail for the weekend and was not given his medications for epilepsy, the suit alleged. Not long after his release Walker had a severe seizure and was hospitalized at Charleston Area Medical Center’s Teays Valley Hospital.

Putnam County Sheriff Steve DeWeese said he would refrain from commenting on the lawsuit before speaking with the county attorney.

Putnam County Attorney Larry Fry did not respond to Gazette-Mail inquiries before press time.

Reach Rebecca Carballo at rebecca.carballo@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5189 or follow @Becca_Carballo on Twitter.

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