Kindergarten Shoot-Up Joker Wins Appeal
It wasn't funny when James Ross made a satirical Facebook post about shooting kindergarten students.
It also wasn't funny when Jackson police officers arrested him. He sued, and the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said he has a case.
In Ross v. City of Jackson, the appeals court said the police should have known it was just a bad joke.
"Shoot Up a Kindergarten"
The problem started on Jan. 25, 2015 with a Facebook post showing various images below the title, "Why I need a gun." Ross, a gun control advocate, responded:
"Which one do I need to shoot up a kindergarten?"
On a tip, officers Anthony Henson and Toby Freeman arrested Ross at his job. He told the officers it was "meant to be a joke," but he was charged with disturbing the peace and spent several days in jail before he was bailed out.
After the criminal case was dismissed, Ross started a civil one. He sued the officers for civil rights violations, but a trial judge threw it out on immunity grounds.
The Eighth Circuit reversed, saying the Facebook post was not a "true threat" and "a reasonable officer would have understood that."
The appeals panel said Ross tried to explain it to the officers, but they did not give him a chance. On the other hand, they said the police were justified in investigating the kindergarten comment.
"In current times and in light of current events, the statement demonstrated, at a minimum, questionable judgment," the judges said.