Ohio CHL-holder files civil rights suit against Canton officer who threatened to execute him

by Chad D. Baus

William Bartlett, an Ohio concealed handgun license (CHL)-holder, has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the City of Canton, the Canton police department, and against Daniel Harless and other officers involved in his arrest and prosecution for supposedly failing to promptly notify officers that he had a CHL.

On June 8, 2011, Ohio concealed handgun license (CHL)-holder William Barlett was involved in a traffic stop initiated by Canton Police Officer Daniel Harless. Harless' behavior during the stop, caught on dash cam video, was nothing less than appalling.

In the dash cam video, the officer can be heard unleashing a profanity-laced tirade, yelling "I should blast you in the mouth right now...I'm so close to caving in your head," and "you're just a stupid human being!" He continued to berate the license-holder, shouting "You want me to pull mine and stick it to your head?" "People like you don't deserve to @#$%#$ move throughout public. Period!"

The officer left the driver in the rear of the police vehicle, and returned several minutes later and began shouting at the driver again. "...I swear to God this little bull crap you pulled has me so hot. You know what I should have done? I tell you what I should have done. As soon as I saw your gun I shoulda taken two steps back, pulled my Glock 40, and just put ten bullets in your ass and let you drop. And I wouldn't of lost any sleep. Do you understand me? And he would have been a nice witness as I executed you because you're stupid."

After the dash cam video went viral on the Internet, local news media uncovered video involving at least two other incidents in which Harless had verbally threatened the lives of people at traffic stops. In one, Harless threatened to send the suspects "to the grave" if they moved, adding, "I will shoot you in the face and I'll go to sleep tonight." In another, Harless can be heard engaging in yet another profanity-laced tirade, saying, "If you scratch your balls wrong, I'm going to pull my gun and I am going to shoot you."

Despite these incidences having been "investigated" by internal affairs, Harless was allowed to continue to work - right up until he lost control on the night be pulled over Bartlett.

When the video became public, Harless was put on paid leave, and the City of Canton proceeded to attempt to prosecute Bartlett for failing to notify officers he had a CHL, even though the evidence suggested that Bartlett had tried numerous times to notify, but had been interrupted by Harless.

Bartlett was forced to hire legal counsel to defend against the malicious prosecution (Bartlett says at one point Canton officials told him they would drop the case if he promised not to sue - something he was not willing to do.) Buckeye Firearms Foundation donated $1000 to his legal defense. The case was eventually thrown out by Municipal Court Judge Stephen Belden, who said the prosecution had failed to prove their case.

Soon thereafter, Officer Harless was terminated from his job with the Canton PD. He is currently appealing the ruling, a move that signals he is likely angling to be put on disability.

On May 31, Bartlett filed a lawsuit charging the City of Canton, the Canton PD, Harless and other involved officers with violations of his constitutional rights. Included in the complaint are accusations that:

  • The officers violated his rights under the U.S. and Ohio constitutions by performing an illegal and unlawful search of his vehicle
  • Harless purposely and/or recklessly, and/or with wanton disregard for the well-being of Plaintiff, securing the restraints in such a way as to cause Bartlett extreme pain and injury.
  • Harless' extreme violent demeanor and statements, while he had a handgun and other weapons and/or police equipment in his possession, and threats to execute Bartlett, caused him to fear for his life and/or severe bodily injury.
  • Harless told Bartlett that he would tow his automobile, every time he saw it, "valid license or not," further threatening him with unlawful activities.
  • Harless' partner, Mark Diels, stood by while Harless unleashed this verbal tirade in a violent demeanor and threatened Bartlett with assault and battery, severe bodily injury, execution, and other unlawful and improper activities, without intervening or stopping Harless in any way. Further, Diels did not voluntarily report the incident to Police Supervisors when he was able to do so.
  • Subsequent to placing Bartlett under arrest at the scene, Harless and Diels signed a sworn Criminal Complaint, stating that Plaintiff "did not inform police officers that he had a CCW permit through Stark County until the weapon was discovered during a pat down of his person during a traffic stop of his vehicle" - a statement that they knew to be false and untrue.
  • Also subsequent to placing Plaintiff under arrest at the scene, Harless dictated an official, even though unsworn, statement. In said statement, Harless stated that Bartlett "did not inform the Officers that he had a concealed carry permit until he was placed in the rear of the police cruiser, and that the concealed weapons permit was retrieved from Plaintiff's wallet" or words to that effect. These statements were false and untrue, and Harless knew them to be false and untrue.
  • A jury was impaneled for a trial of Bartlett on the criminal charge of Carrying a Concealed Weapon, based on the allegation that he failed to inform a law enforcement officer of his Concealed Handgun License and that he was armed.
  • Harless' repeated improper and unlawful behavior shows a clear pattern of misconduct and has demonstrated an abuse of power and a clear, lengthy record of profanity-laced, violent interactions with the citizens he encounters while performing his official duties as a Canton City Police Officer.
  • During other earlier, similar, profanity-laced and threatening tirades against citizens with whom Harless came in contact with, other Canton City Police Officers (who are, as of yet, unidentified) on the scene did not intervene to stop the improper and unlawful actions of Harless, and, further, they also failed to report such improper and unlawful actions of Harless to Police Supervisors.
  • On other prior diverse occasions, Harless, Diels and other, as of yet unidentified Canton Police Officers, routinely performed improper and illegal law enforcement traffic stops, not supported by any probable cause as required they the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Ohio.
  • The City of Canton and/or Canton Police Department and/or Canton Police Supervisors were aware of Harless’ pattern of improper behavior and misconduct, or propensity for the same, because there were no fewer than sixteen internal affairs complaints lodged against Harless.
  • The City of Canton encouraged and tolerated the custom, policies and practices described in the foregoing paragraphs and refused to adequately train, direct, monitor, supervise or control Defendant Police Officers so as to prevent the violation of Bartlett's constitutional rights.
  • The arrest, transportation and detention of plaintiff without probable cause by Harless and Diels constituted a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment and deprived Bartlett of his right of liberty. Further, this seizure and deprivation of liberty were unreasonable and without due process of law, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Ohio.

The suit seeks to have the parties found to have violated 42 USC 1983 (UNLAWFUL SEARCH, SEIZURE AND EXCESSIVE FORCE, UNLAWFUL ARREST, FAILURE TO TRAIN/MONITOR/SURPERVISE, FAILURE TO INVESTIGATE AND DISCIPLINE, FAILURE TO INTERVENE OR REPORT, EXCESSIVE FORCE, ASSAULT AND BATTERY, FALSE ARREST AND FALSE STATEMENT, INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS, MALICIOUS PROSECUTION), and seeks judgment for compensatory damages in an amount to be more fully determined in a trial, to include, but not limited to, towing and impound fees, medical expenses, compensation for physical and emotional distress, costs of the resulting litigation, Bartlett's attorney fees, prejudgment interest, together with any and all other relief, legal or equitable or of any kind whatsoever, to which he is entitled. In addition, Bartlett is also requesting punitive damages against Defendant Police Officers Daniel R. Harless and Mark A. Diels, in an amount to be proven at trial.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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