(photo credit: PIXABAY)
Photo: PIXABAY
Photo: PIXABAY

Lawsuit filed against police over arrest of man who dropped ‘F-bomb’

A Polk County man has filed a federal lawsuit against police officers who arrested and jailed him for dropping the “F-bomb.”

According to the lawsuit, two Polk police officers were conducting a traffic stop in a store’s parking lot when David Justin Freeman drove past and yelled, “(Expletive) you, pigs.”

Upon hearing that, Officers Casey Wayne Lyall and Keith Streetman got into their patrol car and pursued Freeman. They soon stopped him and asked why he was “hollering profanities,” the lawsuit states.

The officers then forcibly removed Freeman from his car and charged him with disorderly conduct, reckless driving and obstruction, the suit states. Freeman was jailed for two days before being released.

Freeman’s lawsuit contends that clearly established law says screaming such an expletive-laden insult at police is not disorderly conduct. What Freeman said is political speech, which is given the highest protection under the First Amendment, according to the lawsuit filed on May 22 in U.S. District Court in Rome.

“This was an arrest that should have never occurred,” said Gerry Weber, one of Freeman’s attorneys. “And it happened because some police officers are not trained to have a thick-enough skin. That’s particularly important for them to have now in the context of the protests across the country.”

Atlanta lawyer Gerry Weber, who represents David Justin Freeman. (Southern Center for Human Rights)
Photo: Southern Center for Human Rights

Polk Police Chief Kenny Dodd said his office has yet to be served the lawsuit and, even if it had, he could not comment on pending litigation.

A similar lawsuit was filed six years ago by Amy Elizabeth Barnes against Cobb County police.

On Easter Sunday in 2012, she shouted “Cobb police suck” and “(Expletive) the police,” and raised her middle finger while riding her bicycle past two officers questioning an African American man outside a convenience store. The officers arrested Barnes, who spent a night in the county jail.

Amy Elizabeth Barnes, who settled her lawsuit against Cobb County police for $100,000. (CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM)
Photo: CURTIS COMPTON / AJC

A Cobb judge, while calling Barnes’ comments offensive, found them to be protected political speech and dismissed the case. Barnes then sued Cobb police and reached a $100,000 settlement in 2014.

Freeman is no stranger to a courthouse. In 2014, he was arrested at his home after he flipped a bird at a pastor during a church service in Flowery Branch.

This happened after the pastor had asked for any teachers who were present to stand and be recognized. Freeman, who home-schooled, stood up and raised his hand. When he wasn't recognized, and while the congregation was praying, Freeman raised his middle finger to the pastor, Freeman said.

Later, he told the gathering, “It is your responsibility to raise your own children, and it is a sin to give them to a godless government.”

Freeman appealed his disorderly conduct conviction all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, where he personally argued his case. In 2017, the court unanimously overturned his conviction, saying that raising a middle finger does not constitute a true threat.

Two years later, Freeman filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit over his arrest. A federal judge dismissed the case in December, and Freeman is now appealing that decision to the federal appeals court in Atlanta.

Freeman also filed a lawsuit against the Hall County Sheriff’s Department, alleging he had been abused while being held there. A federal judge dismissed that suit as well.

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