Milwaukee police who forced their way into a gun rights advocate's home without a warrant, took her for an emergency mental evaluation and seized her gun were justified under the circumstances and protected from her civil rights claims, a federal appeals court has ruled.
Krysta Sutterfield, who twice made news because of her practice of openly carrying a handgun — at a Brookfield church and outside a Sherman Park coffee shop — drew police attention in 2011 after her psychiatrist reported a suicidal remark Sutterfield made during a difficult appointment.
Sutterfield, 45, claimed police violated her rights against unreasonable search and seizure and Second Amendment rights to keep a gun, but a district judge dismissed the case.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 75-page opinion analyzing existing law about when police may act without search warrants, upheld the decision but suggested there might be better ways to balance personal privacy rights in the context of emergency mental health evaluations.
According to the opinion:
Sutterfield's doctor called police after Sutterfield left an appointment by saying she might as well go home and "blow her brains out," after Sutterfield had gotten some bad news. Sutterfield was wearing an empty gun holster to the appointment, so her doctor assumed Sutterfield had a gun.
Sutterfield later disputed making the comment.
Police went to Sutterfield's home but didn't find her. Later, Sutterfield called her doctor and said she was not in need of assistance and to call off the police.
But officers returned to Sutterfield's residence that evening, some nine hours after her comment to her doctor. They found her at home. She told them she was fine, did not want their help and asked them to leave, and called 911 when they would not.
The officers forcibly entered, handcuffed Sutterfield and took her to the county's Mental Health Complex.
They also seized a handgun and several out-of-state concealed-carry licenses, found inside a locked CD case, and a BB gun that resembled a Glock firearm.
Sutterfield later sued.