CLEVELAND (WJW) – A community activist has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Police Department.
Antoine Tolbert is accusing police of wrongfully arresting him and violating his civil rights, specifically his Second Amendment rights.
“I’m exercising my right to bear arms and Ohio is an open carry state,” said Tolbert.
May 23, around 6:30 p.m., Tolbert was conducting a citizens safety patrol on Saint Clair Avenue and openly carrying a gun after multiple violent shootings in the area, including the murder of 14-year-old.
“Our armed community patrols are something we do often throughout the city of Cleveland. We’re known for it in city and throughout the country,” said Tolbert.
But on police body camera video, they say they received a call about Tolbert and that he was inducing panic.
An officer can be heard on the video repeatedly telling him to put the gun down and Antoine responding that he has the right to bear arms.
“There is nothing in the State of Ohio Ohio Revised Code that says you have to have a sling or that you cannot hold a shotgun,” said Attorney Tiana Bohanon, who is representing Tolbert. “Nothing he did that day was illegal.”
The 31-year-old was arrested and booked into the county jail on charges that his attorney says make no sense.
“He was charged with carrying concealed weapons,” said Bohanon. “Nowhere does that make sense.”
The case was then sent to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and to a grand jury which sent back a “no bill” on the charges, basically dismissing them.
“Thankfully, a grand jury was able to see that Antoine should not have been arrested in the first place, let alone charged with carrying a concealed weapon,” said Bohanon.
However, the damage was already done. Antoine lost his job over the arrest and suffered other indignities.
In the lawsuit, he’s not only seeking justice for himself, but demanding accountability for the current culture of policing in Cleveland.
He’s promising to continue the community patrols to help protect his community.
“I was there to protect that neighborhood and police don’t have jurisdiction or authority to tell me I can’t protect my community. If they’re not going to do it, whose responsibility is it?” said Antoine.
FOX 8 reached out to the city for comment, but a spokesperson says they can’t comment on pending litigation.