Freedom Fighter of the Month
August 2009 – Derek Copp
Student, Grand Valley State University, Michigan
By Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator
Sometimes we choose to become activists, sometimes getting busted compels us to become activists. Few of us, however, are led to activism by getting shot in the chest by a police officer in our home.
That is the circumstance of this month’s Freedom Fighter. Grand Valley State University student Derek Copp was relaxing in his apartment when five members of the West Michigan Enforcement Team approached his sliding glass patio door around 9pm on Wednesday, March 11. As Derek opened the door, police shined a flashlight in his face. As he raised an arm to shield his eyes from the light, one officer fired one shot into Derek’s upper right chest.
Derek was immediately taken to the hospital. Doctors treated Derek and got him to stable condition. Police, however, did not notify Derek’s parents, who didn’t find out about their son’s shooting until six hours later, at 3am, from a nurse at the hospital.
While the unnamed deputy who shot Derek with his Glock handgun remains on paid administrative leave, Derek has jumped headfirst into activism. Students held a rally for Derek on Friday, March 13, and he spoke by speakerphone, saying, “We have to give peace a chance.” Two weeks later, Derek appeared at a press conference to tell Michigan’s Grand Rapids Press that “I’m just a piece in this puzzle. Being part of it is really powerful. I enjoy what people are trying to do to change things.”
Derek’s attorney, Fred Willey, stated, “To my knowledge, the raid resulted in the seizure of a few tablespoonfuls of marijuana, and nothing more.” Derek’s case stands as an example of many cases where responsible cannabis consumers are terrorized in their homes by overaggressive and unnecessary police tactics; we’re all just grateful that Derek’s case wasn’t one of the fatal examples.