I just wrote about a case involving an open gun-carrier whose confrontation with police stemmed from “suspicious activity,” which involved nothing more than walking around in public with a gun. Even though the charges against the man were dropped, the man filed a lawsuit against the police for false arrest. He lost the case. The judge had ruled that open carrying constitutes reasonable suspicion for police to believe that a crime has either been committed or is about to be committed. So, according to the judge, all you have to be doing in order for police to “lawfully” detain and interrogate you is exercise your 2nd Amendment right. And if you exercise your 4th and 5th Amendment rights, they’ll call your mental health into question.
That was in Georgia. There’s a similar case in Oregon that’s gone the other way. A man named Kevin Hall in Corvallis, Oregon was spotted walking to and from his mailbox carrying a Glock on his hip. Officer James Dodge with the Corvallis PD responded to the “concerned citizen’s” call and arrived at Hall’s residence as he was on his way back to his house from his mailbox. His mailbox was about 200 feet away from his house.
Court documents indicate that the officer was suspicious of Hall because he was openly carrying a gun in a high-crime area along the railroad tracks, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt covering his head, behaving and moving suspiciously and refusing to answer his questions. Hall’s residence and mailbox were on a short section of Sixth Street, near D Avenue, which borders the railroad tracks. It is unpaved and dead-ends before it reaches C Avenue.
The officer said he had reasonable suspicion that Hall had been trespassing on railroad property.
This whole “suspicious activity” thing means nothing anymore. If you breathe, that’s “reasonable suspicion” that you might commit a crime. I mean, studies have shown that criminals share at least one thing in common: they all breathe. So, if a cop catches you breathing, expect to be detained, interrogated and probed, because you might be about to commit a crime. You can never be too safe.
The officer was “suspicious” of Hall because he was openly carrying a gun in a high-crime area. Uhhh, maybe that’s why he was carrying a gun out in the open? Just a thought?
The cop detained him, asked him some unanswered questions, patted him down, and using the name he found on a piece of Hall’s mail, looked to see if he had any outstanding warrants. Finding nothing and hearing nothing from Hall except, “Am I being detained?” he let Hall go.
But Hall didn’t let it go. First, he filed a complaint with the Corvallis Police Department, which resulted in an “internal investigation,” which of course found nothing wrong. So, he sued the city police department for the unlawful stop. He represented himself. And he won.
The Gazette Times reported on U.S. District Judge Michael McShane’s ruling:
“The gravity of the public concern — criminal trespass — was minimal,” he wrote, “as was the public concern — preventing criminal trespass and ‘transient-related crimes and violations’ — served by the seizure.”
Because it was an unlawful stop, McShane wrote, Dodge also didn’t have the right to pat down Hall. Both actions, according to McShane, violated Hall’s Fourth Amendment rights.
The city of Corvallis paid Hall a $5,000 settlement.
A judge in the south rules that carrying a gun is reasonable suspicion of a crime. A judge on the left coast rules that it isn’t. Go figure.