A 72-year-old Chicago man saw a therapist last August and described how he felt the “weight of the world” on his shoulders. Hours later, police were at his Arlington Heights home to confiscate the antique guns that decorated his living room.
A physician recommended that Arthur Lovi, who has high blood pressure, speak with a therapist. Although he already sees a VA psychiatrist once a month because he is plagued by memories of being an Air Force crash rescue helicopter pilot in the 1960s, Lovi agreed to see another therapist.
"I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders," Lovi told The Daily Herald.
Lovi told the therapist about his history of loss. His 3-year-old granddaughter drowned. His mother passed away. His son-in-law died of a drug overdose.
Nine years ago, Lovi’s wife, Cindy, died of leukemia. He told the therapist Cindy became tired and bruised easily. When they first saw a doctor, they were told she just had a cold. The next day, they got a second opinion and found out it was cancer. Cindy died just a few weeks later at the age of 53.
He said he is still bitter about the misdiagnosis.
"I'll have hard feelings about it until the day I die," Lovi said. "Not that a day would make a difference, but maybe it would have. I'll never know."
Those comments prompted his therapist to report Lovi to police. She explicitly told them that she did not believe he would carry out a threat made on his wife’s former doctor or that he was a danger to himself or others.
Police took the report seriously and called Lovi several hours later to ask if he had any weapons in his home. Lovi, whose son lives with him, explained that they only have three, unloaded antique firearms that decorate the house, including a musket that is more than 100 years old. They do not have any ammunition for the guns.
Police then contacted the doctor who misdiagnosed Cindy. He claimed he "did not feel like his safety was in immediate jeopardy."
Nevertheless, at 11 p.m. that night, police arrived at Lovi’s door to take his antique guns. The Aug. 30 police report was obtained by the Daily Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request. Lovi was not arrested or charged with a crime.
Accounts from police and Lovi differ greatly. According to a lawsuit filed by Lovi, the officers entered his home without his consent and took his guns and Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card.
The claim said that when he asked for a warrant the police said, "they could go get a warrant and if he insisted they do that, they would come back and tear the [expletive] out of his house.”
After two days, Lovi called to ask about his guns. An officer was sent to his house. When the officer brought up Lovi’s wife, the man became upset. The suit claims that is when the officer told him he had to have a psychiatric exam. Police allegedly said Lovi would have to get into an ambulance in order to be taken to a hospital for an evaluation. He said they threatened to handcuff him and put him in the ambulance if he refused to go willingly.
His attorney, Dan Kiss, said law enforcement was trying to make Lovi appear mentally unstable so they could justify the confiscation of his antique guns.
"That's an extreme abuse of power," Kiss said. "It's bad enough to come to someone's house and take their guns. It's another to get them effectively imprisoned under phony allegations of mental illness."
Deemed unlikely to harm himself or others, he was released from Northwest Community Hospital and tried three more times to retrieve his FOID card and antique guns from the police. Once he hired a lawyer two months later, the department finally returned his FOID card and the weapons, one of which, he said, was damaged.
"I cannot put up with this," Lovi said. "It scared the hell out of me. I'm not a gun nut. I couldn't believe this was really happening."
Lovi filed suit in January, but has not been able to come to a reasonable agreement with the police department. His attorneys are now demanding a jury trial.
"We want a fair amount to compensate him for what he was put through," Kiss said. "Not just the shock and embarrassment of police coming to his home without legal reason, but also the direct attempt of police to try and have him civilly committed."