Kindergarten Shoot-Up Joker Wins Appeal

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 03, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

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.

"Questionable Judgment"

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.

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