It was a warm Friday night in April, and senior Sean Michael Combs was enthusiastic about the rifle he received a month earlier as a gift for his 18th birthday, so he decided to carry it with him when he headed to downtown Birmingham with a friend.
Combs' choice to carry the M1 Garand slung over his shoulder resulted in his an experience his close friend Lia Grabowski calls "terrifying."
Grabowski spoke up on Combs' behalf Monday, saying her friend "was in his legal right" when he was arrested.
Grabowski, 17, also a senior at Troy High, said she was with Combs at the time of his arrest Friday and witnessed Combs' exchange with police.
“We were just walking down to Birmingham," Grabowski said. "We weren’t doing anything. There were groups of kids walking around.
"He’s a huge supporter of open carry and the right to bear arms, and he thought he could legally carry. He wasn’t going to use it on anyone. Obviously, he could have defended himself, but he wasn’t looking for a fight.”
Grabowski said she and Combs were approached by a few teenagers who asked if his rifle was real, though "nobody was afraid, and everyone was kind of curious."
Then, the pair was stopped by a police officer, who asked to see Combs' driver's license, Grabowski said. Combs declined, and moments later, two more officers arrived and arrested Combs as he reached to produce his identification, according to Grabowski.
"He was in his legal right," Grabowski said. "He refused to give him his ID, but not rudely."
Grabowski said she does not agree with the actions of the Birmingham Police officers, adding that the experience was "terrifying."
Combs is a four-year member of the , serving as one of its captains this past season. He was also on the track team for three years and ran indoor track for two years.
"I can kind of understand the fact that he’s an 18-year-old, and he doesn’t really look 18, but he was completely within his legal right and they did not have a right to arrest him. ... They had what they asked for, and they arrested him anyway."
"We understand long gun open carry to be lawful" in the state of Michigan, said Phillip Hofmeister, president of Michigan Open Carry, Inc., though he added that the group does not advocate open carry of long guns. Also, according to the group's website, "under no legal obligation are you required to talk to a police officer or produce identification of any kind if you are not being detained."
Combs declined to comment Monday without his attorney present. He is scheduled to be arraigned May 2 on charges of disturbing the peace, brandishing a weapon and obstructing an investigation.
Birmingham Police could not be reached for comment Monday evening.