Nessel won't pursue charges against Grand Traverse official who showed gun in meeting

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Friday she won't pursue charges against a county commissioner who displayed his rifle during an online public meeting in January, though she called his behavior "reprehensible and irresponsible."

Nessel's office investigated the incident after a request from the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s Office following a state police investigation of Commissioner Ron Clous.

Clous, a four-term member of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners, was participating in a Zoom meeting of the board Jan. 20 when a resident criticized the chairman for letting members of the far-right Proud Boys group to speak in favor of making the county a “Second Amendment Sanctuary." She urged the board to disavow the group.

In this file image from a Zoom meeting provided by the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners, Grand Traverse County Commissioner Ron Clous holds a rifle at his home during a county commissioners meeting Jan. 20, 2021.

As the resident was speaking, Clous momentarily left the camera frame and returned holding a rifle, which he displayed for the webcam for about five seconds in front of his chest before putting it down, without ever pointing the rifle at the camera, according to Nessel's office.

The incident prompted a backlash from the public and made national headlines. The resident, Patricia Macintosh, filed a report with the state police.

But Nessel's department said it determined that Clous' actions did not amount to criminal conduct because there was not enough evidence to prove he had malicious intent.

“Anytime a person feels the law has been violated, the police should be notified and a report should be filed to ensure a proper investigation,” Nessel said.

“I appreciate the community member who came forward to file this report, and I respect the conclusion reached by my office," she added.

"I find Commissioner Clous’ action to be reprehensible and irresponsible, but not illegal. While he will not face accountability in a courtroom, Commissioner Clous’ constituents have the power to make their opinions clear the next time he’s up for re-election.” 

mburke@detroitnews.com