A South Carolina man is suing the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office and four law enforcement officers after he was wrongfully arrested for target shooting on private property in 2018, according to a recently filed federal lawsuit.
Kareem Martin filed the lawsuit against the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Will Montgomery, deputy Samantha Demirtas, Sgt. Timothy Inman, and Sgt. Chris Darner on April 16 in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina – Rock Hill Division.
On Feb. 10, 2018, Martin’s relative who also lives on the family-owned property called police to report harassing phone calls. Sometime after police arrived to the property on Martin Road in Winnsboro, South Carolina, deputy Samantha Demirtas heard several gunshots.
Demirtas asked Martin’s family members if they knew what was going on and they replied “no,” according to the lawsuit.
The deputy then called dispatch, and approached the area where she heard gunshots with her weapon drawn, the lawsuit said.
Demirtas found Kareem Martin and his family member Keenan Avery Martin several yards away target shooting on their family’s land. Both were legal gun owners with legal guns, according to the lawsuit.
“The target area was lit with a flashlight,” the lawsuit said. “Additionally, there were no homes in an unsafe proximity to the line of fire.”
The Martin family enjoyed target shooting on their land as a common past-time, the lawsuit said.
Demirtas approached Kareem Martin and his relative and told them to get on the ground, according to the lawsuit. She “demanded to know where they were shooting at.”
The two men said they were just shooting and asked if they were doing anything illegal.
At first, Demirtas told them it was illegal to target shoot when it is “this dark” outside, but later told them it was not illegal, according to the lawsuit.
In the Fairfield County code of ordinances, we couldn’t find any laws about target shooting after dark, though there are some laws against high levels of noise after dark that require a warning, not an arrest. In some counties such as Horry County, it is illegal to practice target shooting within certain hours, even on private property.
Demirtas asked Martin for his name and he asked why she needed it.
According to the lawsuit, the deputy had her gun drawn and pointed at the two Martin men who were on the ground, even though they hadn’t done anything illegal.
Demirtas called dispatch again and told them she had “two black males” who were refusing to identify themselves and had guns, the lawsuit said.
“Deputy Samantha Demirtas then handcuffed them and informed them that shooting on family property is no issue “but when you have a deputy out here trying to do a report, it is dark, common sense, common sense,” the lawsuit said.
Martin’s grandmother then told the deputy they were shooting on private property and not shooting at anyone.
Demirtas didn’t release them and then asked for their IDs to see if they had warrants out for their arrests, according to the lawsuit.
“In initiating her arrest Deputy Samantha Demirtas claimed that she had it on camera that they were discharging weapons in an unsafe manner in the air,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims Demirtas then “attempted she attempted to manufacture a reason and harassed them” by then demanding them to tell her “where is the weed at.” They told her they didn’t have any weed.
After some back-and-forth between Demirtas and the two Martin men, two other officers arrived on scene. Demirtas told the two officers Timothy Inman and Chris Darner that they were cooperative, but would not give their names.
“One of the officer’s informed Deputy Samantha Demirtas to book them in as John Doe, ‘If they want to play, we will play,’” the lawsuit stated.
Kareem and Keenan Martin were then threatened to go to jail if they didn’t ID themselves, according to the lawsuit.
Eventually, Kareem Martin’s cousin gave the officers their names. After the officers ran their names through their system, they realized that neither one of them had outstanding warrants, according to the lawsuit.
“One officer responded, ‘that is so ridiculous,’” the lawsuit said.
They were told that it was illegal to target shoot after dark and that it was illegal to refuse to give your name to law enforcement when asked.
“Law enforcement knew or should have known that both of these statements were false,” the lawsuit said.
The officers then arrested Kareem Martin and Keenan Martin and on a breach of peace charge “because they did not like the fact that two young black men were allowed to exercise their constitutional rights by legally shooting weapons and not readily providing their names to law enforcement even though they had no legal obligation to do so,” the lawsuit said.
The suit also stated that no one complained to law enforcement about the men target shooting.
Kareem Martin spent the night at the Fairfield County Detention Center. He had no previous arrests on his record, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that the officers were grossly negligent in fabricating the the law and falsely accusing and imprisoning Martin.
Martin believes his first, second, fourth and fourteenth amendment rights were violated by the officers.
Fairfield County is located in the South Carolina Midlands region, north of Columbia. It’s a smaller county with a population of about 22,000.
Camden attorneys Robert Butcher, Deborah Butcher, and Brett Perry are representing Martin in the lawsuit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].