Antoine Tolbert, the President of New Era Cleveland, was wrongfully arrested for openly carrying both a shotgun and pistol in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.
Because Antoine followed all legal gun laws in the state of Ohio, his charges were later thrown out by a grand jury.
He is now suing the city and police for unlawful and false arrest.
New Era Cleveland is a nonprofit organization that focuses on neighborhood clean-ups, after-school Youth clinics, connecting community members with local resources, partnering with businesses to create safe places for those in need, and implementing a community patrol program.
According to IOBY.org, the community patrol program includes legally armed and trained citizens who canvass neighborhoods to deter criminals from targeting communities and offer crisis intervention and medic support if needed.
Glenville crime rates are 207% higher than the national average, with violent crimes 437% higher than the national average, per AreaVibes.
Just recently, a 27-year-old man was shot and killed in the Glenville neighborhood, Cleveland.com reported.
After more violent crimes in the Glenville neighborhood in May, including the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old girl and a shooting at a memorial service, Tolbert took it upon himself to patrol the area to protect the neighborhood against potential threats.
“Imagine as a young small child living in this community and you see black men that live here, patrolling it, taking ownership and keeping these streets safe,” Tolbert told News 5 Cleveland.
As Tolbert was patrolling, officers stopped to question Tolbert about his 12 gauge shotgun and handgun. Tolbert relayed that he had a fundamental right to carry firearms openly, which the officers acknowledged, and Tolbert walked away.
However, when Police Sgt. Lance Henderson arrived on the scene the situation changed. Sgt. Henderson instructed officers to arrest Tolbert for carrying firearms. Officers initially laughed at the orders from Henderson, as Tolbert was not breaking any gun laws.
Eventually, officers capitulated and followed through with Sgt. Henderson’s directive. They drove up and surrounded Tolbert in the Glenville neighborhood.
Thanks to body cam footage (see above), Sgt. Henderson is shown stepping out of his police cruiser, drawing his handgun, and pointing it at Tolbert, while instructing him to put his guns on the ground.
Sgt. Henderson is heard in the camera footage saying: “You can’t walk down the street with a gun in your hand…I’m not going to allow you to do it.”
Officers arrested Tolbert on Henderson’s orders, charging him with the improper handling of a firearm, which only applies to Ohio laws about transporting a gun in a car.
Section 2923.16 | Improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle.
No person shall knowingly transport or have a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle in such a manner that the firearm is accessible to the operator or any passenger without leaving the vehicle.– Ohio Laws & Administrative Rules
Tolbert spent 36 hours in jail and was eventually released without any charges.
“Officers cannot merely just decide to arrest somebody, detain somebody and take them down to the county jail just because they don’t like something that they’re doing,” said Tolbert’s attorney, Tiana Bohanon in an interview with WKSU.
“He had not been carrying any concealed weapon and he had not been improperly handling a firearm inside any motor vehicle,” she added.
The lawsuit is seeking damages from the city and the 14 officers involved.
Following the arrest, Tolbert lost his job at a community development organization and was forced to move out of his home, temporarily, because his wife’s ex-husband was using the incident as a means to gain full custody of their child.