Earlier, Crimcourts reported on the arrest of former county commissioner Brian Bigelow, and speculated that improper police action may lead to him beating the charges. I was relying on the NBC-2 story that indicated the officers blocked-in his vehicle when they first made contact with him. I have obtained a of the booking report filed by Fort Myers police, and the arresting officer claims that his vehicle did not impede Mr. Bigelow’s vehicle from leaving. To do so would demonstrate a clear detention and certainly create an illegal seizure issue. It is convenient that the cop put the exact language in his report that sounds like his actions are following the law! (My BS detector is on alert.)
However, the cop then indicates that Mr. Bigelow entered the vehicle and “attempted” to leave, and officers ‘made contact’ with he and his passenger. If he attempted to leave, and was prohibited from doing so by officers, a detention still exists. That’s a stop, plain and simple, and it is clear from the language of the officer’s report. The officer tries to say that he was acting suspiciously… but leaving to avoid contact with officers is not suspicious activity. The courts have repeatedly upheld that citizens have a right to avoid officer contact. Mr. Bigelow immediately requested a supervisor because he felt he was being harassed, and he may have a good case.
The officers also charged him with Loitering and Prowling, which is frequently a catch-all charge cops use to justify arresting someone when they don’t have a real case. For an L&P to be sustained, there has to be some real prowling-type activity, and it simply is not present in this case. Mr. Bigelow was picking up his friend who lived in that complex. He was lawfully parked in an apparently marked stall. That is clearly not an L&P situation, and again, his harassment complaint seems to have merit. Cops can’t just go around stopping and detaining people and making up their justification. Imagine if you were in your friends driveway, and suddenly a bunch of cops came up and started ordering you around. Assuming they didn’t find drugs in your pocket and throw you in jail, you’d be marching down to the police station to complain about being harassed. Mr. Bigelow still holds a strong chance of beating these charges based on the unlawful search and seizure by Fort Myers police.