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Thread: Manassa -- This Just In

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    THE REPORT IS IN

    Well, I have received a copy of the Manassas Police Department's investigation into the wrong doing of its officers for harassing seven law-abiding gun owners at Tony's restaurant back in January.

    The police investigated themselves and determined that, except for some inappropriate language in a few emails that VCDL received from doing a Freedom of Information Act inquiry, the seven officers did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG!

    The letter victimizes those seven gun owners all over again :-(

    Here is how *I* would summarize the letter from Police Chief Skinner:

    * The main thing the police did wrong was to be stupid enough leave a 'paper trail' of their abuse of those seven gun owners.

    * The officers were wrong to use abusive language in referring to VCDL and the seven gun owners. However, the only foul language was in the emails. Contrary to statements from the seven gun owners, the officers used no foul or derogatory language while talking to the gun owners.

    * Other than those things documented by the officer's email, the seven gun owners, who have excellent credentials and some probably better than the Manassas Police Chief, were all lying and the police officers were all telling the truth.

    * The Chief will punish the officers for making those offensive and incriminating emails and will see that future incriminating emails are not made. (That way the police can more easily deny and whitewash future abuses of power.)

    MANASSAS - VCDL IS GOING TO COME KNOCKING AGAIN!

    I have a call into Mayor Waldron. He and I played phone-tag on Friday and we should be able to hook up on Monday.

    I am going to plan on speaking at the April 9th meeting of City Council and denounce this investigation as a sham.

    Will you come stand with me again? If 150 gun owners didn't impress them, perhaps we need even more people to come out and let City Council know that we are not going to tolerate a cover up!

    I will advise when the date is made firm and I am signed up to speak.

    IT APPEARS THE CHIEF IS A MAJOR PART OF THE PROBLEM

    We gave the Chief a fair chance to investigate and did not call for his being fired or being disciplined. But he clearly has failed miserably. Does the department have independent internal affairs investigators? Sounds like they don't. Hmmmm.

    I now see the Chief as an 'enabler,' allowing this kind of behavior as long as there isn't a trail of evidence left behind.

    CITY COUNCIL HAS THE POWER TO FIX THIS

    Since the Chief has declined to do the right thing, then we need to ask City Council to intercede. City Council is an elected body and we can, and will, hold them accountable if they tolerate or condone this kind of police behavior.

    Someone has to be held ACCOUNTABLE for the police abuse of those seven gun owners! If it isn't the officers involved or the Chief of Police, then it will have to be City Council and the Mayor. (I have been trying to reach the Mayor on the telephone since Friday, but no

    luck.)

    THE LETTER

    The letter is below with my comments in square brackets [ ]. Notice how the Chief continually makes a point to refer to the seven gun owners as "the armed group!" Why not refer to them as "the seven citizens?" Perhaps it sounds better that an armed group was harassed and not seven citizens?

    Enjoy your little pat on the head from the Chief:

    --

    Dear Mr Troxel,

    The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the police department's findings concerning an internal investigation into your complaint regarding an incident at Tony's Restaurant, 9108 Mathis Avenue, on the evening of January 13, 2007, You alleged misconduct and unprofessional behavior by several officers during and after responding to a citizen initiated complaint about six (6) subjects (non-law enforcement) openly wearing firearms in the restaurant (It was later determined there were seven (7) individuals in the armed group).

    I will respond to the various issues raised in summary form as follows:

    Issue #1

    The officers were confused about the Virginia Code regarding "open carry" of firearms in an establishment licensed to sell and serve alcoholic beverages.

    The investigation confirmed that the initial responding officer was unfamiliar and confused about the law(s) pertaining to "open carry" in Virginia, The officer suggested the group put the guns in their cars to lessen the impact on other patrons in the restaurant. The group objected, as there is no obligation by law to do so. This resulted in additional miscommunications and further frustrated the officer's ability to effectively resolve the complaint.

    [So the poor officer was confused and frustrated - that would certainly justify abusing citizens - PVC]

    The investigation also determined that a second,more senior, responding officer realized the developing confusion and interceded on behalf of the initial officer to clarify that "open carry" is permissible by law. This officer was more effective in communicating to all parties on the scene. According to Computer Aided Dispatch

    (CAD) records, the call was handled and all officers left the scene in six (6) to nine (9) minutes.

    [But plenty long enough to coerce the owner into kicking the gun owners out - PVC]

    Issue #2

    The officers exceeded their authority by unduly persuading (forcing) the owner(s) of Tony's to ask the group openly wearing firearms to leave the restaurant.

    The investigation determined the owner was not coached or persuaded one way or another by the police concerning the presence of the group. The owner(s) confirmed they had received several complaints from concerned customers and that only one officer explained their property rights(options) to them. The owner(s) stated it was their independent decision to ultimately ask the group to leave because they felt it was bad for business. This was reemphasized again in a recorded television interview with NBC News Channel 4 on February 26th with Tony's manager,Joe D'Agostino. A copy of the taped interview was obtained from NBC News 4 for the investigation.

    [This shows how phoney this whole 'investigation' is. In the email from Officer Clodfelter to Officers Thompson, Hittle, Hyland, Sutton, and Pannell, Officer Clodfelter ADMITS that they coerced the owner to kick out the gun owners! Here is the wording: "My guess is the over-compensating assclowns at Tony's were hyper-aware of all this

    [translation: the gun owners knew Virginia gun laws - PVC]...when their event got spoiled by the whole ***'let's get the owners to tell them to get the [expletive deleted] out' thing.***" That is very damning evidence that the Chief conveniently and disgracefully ignores. In a murder investigation, would the Chief ignore such clear wording in a suspect's email? I hope not - PVC]

    Issue #3

    The responding officers did not act with the appropriate demeanor, were hostile, loud and antagonistic.

    The investigation concluded,as stated earlier, that the initial responding officer was confused and became frustrated and ineffective in resolving the complaint. Interviews with the owners and other independent witnesses(patrons) sitting a few feet away stated they were able to hear occasional words of the on going discussion between the police and the group. Uninvolved,independent witnesses heard no inappropriate,loud, hostile or antagonistic conduct by police at the scene and were in a position to do so. Witnesses did state that the interaction was non-confrontational and involved no profanity or derogatory comments.

    [Yes, looking at the content of their emails that we got from our FOIA request, I just can't imagine this group of officers cussing or threatening anybody. Sheesh. How about officer Pannell yelling at the seven gun owners to, 'get out!' ? Perhaps the witness forgot his or her hearing aids that night? - PVC]

    Issue #4

    The police response to the initial complaint was excessive.

    The investigation concluded the response was not excessive and was deliberate given the preliminary information and number of non-law enforcement armed persons involved in the call. Officer safety is a paramount law enforcement concern when responding to and engaging armed persons under any circumstances and was responded to accordingly. It is very difficult to exactly quantify how many(or how

    few) officers are required to handle each type of call. In this case, it did not require this number of officers; however,this was not known until after the officers arrived on the scene. I would note again that all officers left the scene in six (6) to nine (9) minutes which is a very reasonable time frame with in which to conclude this type of complaint resolution.

    [Oh, yeah? Then why, if this situation was SO dangerous, did officer Hyland come charging into the restaurant by himself instead of waiting for backup? What Hyland did was actually consistent with what the dispatcher told the officers - that there was NO disturbance going on in the restaurant. - PVC]

    Issue #5

    There was a failure to properly supervise officers on the scene.

    There is no evidence to support this allegation. The sustained violations took place outside of the supervisor's immediate control. The supervisor arrived at the scene after the initial officer's ineffective attempt to respond to the original complaint. Likewise,the electronic messaging occurred after she and all units had left the scene and she had no knowledge of the text messaging. Additionally,she identified herself to certain member(s) of the armed group as the on-duty supervisor asking any of them if they would like to talk to the supervisor. No one indicated an interest to do so and she also left the scene.

    [That's not what the seven gun owners saw. The supervisor (Pannell) was very much a part of the problem. - PVC]

    Issue #6

    There were inappropriate comments in electronic messaging about the armed group and the Virginia Citizens Defense League following resolution of the initial call at the restaurant.

    The investigation confirmed that some officers inappropriately made disrespectful, vulgar or unprofessional comments expressing their opinion of the armed individuals involved in the earlier call and their formal organization,the Virginia Citizens Defense League. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of the City's computer policy concerning the use of electronic messaging. In addition,it is a discredit to the Department reflecting poorly on our professional standing and reputation and is in violation of our Code of Conduct.

    [On this we agree! But notice how the Chief is concentrating on the CUSS WORDS and NOT the CONTENT of those emails. In magic or a con game, this is called a 'slight of hand' or 'misdirection.' Or from the Wizard of OZ, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" - PVC]

    As Chief of Police, I extend my personal apology to you and each of the group involved and to the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Conduct of this nature is not condoned and will not be tolerated. I will issue appropriate negative discipline in accordance with City policy. In addition, I will direct several actions related to remedial training concerning the Concealed Carry laws as well as the Open Carry laws contained in the State Code. Remedial training will include a review of the City's Electronic Communications Policy. Lastly, our random auditing of electronic messaging will be enhanced. It is my belief there will not be any similar future recurrence.

    [Notice how the Chief is going to have the officers take "remedial training...of the City's Electronic Communications Policy...random auditing will be enhanced." He is saying that he doesn't want his officers leaving an electronic trail that would show inappropriate activities by the police! The message to Manassas officer: it's OK to abuse citizens, JUST DON"T GET CAUGHT or you are in trouble! Actually the Chief needs to take his own remedial training because there are no "open carry" laws in Virginia! - PVC]

    Regarding my apology, I have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of this letter to Mr. Philip Van Cleave, President,Virginia Citizens Defense League.

    Additional Issues

    A. The investigation found no evidence to substantiate that the initial responding officer suggested that members of the armed group conceal their weapons, thereby placing them in violation of the law, The initial responding officer did suggest the group put the guns in their cars to lessen the impact on other patrons in the restaurant in an attempt to resolve the complaint. This request, which was objected to, was deemed consensual, appropriate and reasonable and would not have created any conflict with the State Code regarding carrying concealed weapons; once objected to, the officer did not pursue further.

    [This directly contradicts the seven gun owners. They said the officer told them to conceal their handgun because open carry was illegal. The Chief admits that officer didn't know the law and in an after-the-fact email from Clodfleter to Hyland, Clodfelter explains that open carry was indeed legal. So why is it so hard for the Chief to imagine an officer who didn't think open carry was legal asking the gun owners to conceal their guns? It's certainly more convenient for the police to say the seven gun owners were lying about this. Worse, according to the gun owners, the police never said anything about the gun owners putting their guns in their cars! - PVC]

    B. The investigation determined that officer(s) declined to accept literature from member(s) of the group, however, the officer(s) are not obligated to receive literature from individuals and this issue is solely at the officer's discretion;

    [The gun owners were not offering LITERATURE, but OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS to clarify the legality of open carry in restaurants. - PVC]

    C. It was concluded that it was appropriate for an officer to suggest the armed group voluntarily leave the restaurant. This was a suggestion made in the spirit of diffusing the situation and resolving the complaint. It was a reasonable consensual request that was declined by the group without further discussion.

    D. Further,the investigation confirmed that the initial responding officer had asked for identification from the armed group, actually in the form of badges/credentials because he believed they were law enforcement officers. This is a legitimate initial request which was not pursued further by the officer once members of the group objected to being required to provide identification upon request. Again,it should be noted that an independent witness who was seated within earshot of this exchange described it as nonconfrontational and nonadversarial.

    [Excuse me, but the normal time to ask for police credentials is AFTER someone says that they are a police officer, not before. Do Manassas police officers always start an interaction with the public by asking the citizens to produce police credentials? The gun owners said they were asked if they were police, but they were never asked for police ID, only regular ID as Hyland initially implied he could arrest them for open carry. - PVC]

    In closing,I want to assure you, other members of the armed group,the Virginia Citizens Defense League,and our fine community that the Manassas Police Department is a professional agency with men and women of high integrity. committed to providing quality police services. We regret this negative incident and will work diligently to maintain the high levels of community confidence the department enjoys, have taken the necessary steps to address this matter as well as initiated actions to preclude any future reoccurrence and trust this experience will make us a better agency.

    [Based on the rest of this letter, the 'reoccurrence' that is being precluded is leaving evidence of police misconduct laying around electronically. - PVC]

    If you have further questions, please feel free to call me directly at (703)257-8001.

    Sincerely,

    John J. Skinner

    Chief of Police

    JJS/lrf

    cc: Mayor and City Council

    Mr. Lawrence D. Hughes,City Manager

    Mr. Robert W. Bendall, CityAttorney

    Mr. Philip Van Cleave, President, VCDL

    --

    Here is a article on the whitewash, er, investigation:

    http://tinyurl.com/yocgmp



    Skinner: Police not excessive

    By ELISA A. GLUSHEFSKI

    eglushefski@manassasjm.com

    Friday, March 23, 2007

    What do you think?

    Click here.

    The response of seven Manassas police officers to a call of seven armed men inside Tony's New York Pizza in mid-January was not excessive, according to the city's chief of police.

    Chief John J. Skinner presented the findings and his response to two formal complaints filed against the department to the Manassas City Council following a public facilities meeting Wednesday night. He also apologized for internal messages and e-mails in which several of the officers refer to the men as "ass clowns" and " 'tards."

    Skinner said there was no other evidence of police misconduct.

    "As chief I feel I owe an apology * for the improper, profane and unprofessional language that was disrespectful at the very least," Skinner said at the meeting.

    Although members of the council were largely satisfied with the findings and the action that would be taken, council member Andrew Harrover said his greatest concern was the possible damage the e-mails could have on public trust.

    "If citizens feel that the police department has no respect for them, then we have a much larger problem," he said.

    Skinner said he plans to address the problem by retraining officers of the city's electronic communications policy, enhancing the departments random auditing of electronic messaging and disciplining the officers who wrote the messages and e-mails.

    The incident that sparked the investigation happened on the evening of Jan. 13, when seven men walked into Tony's New York Pizza on Mathis Avenue with their guns holstered at their side and ordered food.

    An unnamed man at the restaurant, who had approached the men about their guns earlier, called 911 and reported that the men's guns were making him uncomfortable.

    Within minutes of each other, seven police officers responded and, according to Skinner, handled the situation appropriately.

    But Russ Troxel and Mark Anderson, two of the men who were openly carrying holstered guns that night, filed separate complaints in February and after receiving Skinner's letter say they stand by their accusations of several forms of police misconduct, including the officers persuading the owner of Tony's to kick them out.

    Troxel, who was the first to file a complaint, called Skinner's report a whitewash, saying that it showed "internal inconsistencies" and did not address his complaint of the first officer asking the men to conceal their weapons.

    State law requires weapons be carried in the open in places that serve alcohol. While carrying a concealed weapon requires a court-issued permit, no permit is required to carry a gun in the open.

    While Skinner said the officer was confused about Virginia's open carry laws, he added that he did not ask the men to conceal their weapons but that he suggested they put their guns in the car. Skinner also said the confusion could have led to the officer becoming frustrated.

    Anderson said some of the findings, particularly the issues of a failure to supervise, were troubling.

    "I'm a little taken aback by that," Anderson said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. "I stood 20 feet back from these officers when [one] said 'we don't need to see your damn letters, don't come over here and fight us on this' while the other one just stood there mute. That seems to me like a lack of control."

    Anderson said he was outside of the restaurant trying to discuss Second Amendment law with one of the officers when he was cursed at, adding that the supervisor was within earshot and did not intervene.

    Skinner's findings show that the officers declined to accept literature from the group and are not obligated to do so.

    He added in a telephone interview Wednesday that the department's investigation was "thorough, competent and fair" and that he stands behind the findings.

  2. #2
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    There is a HUGE dynamic at play here and they HAD to respond exactly as they did!! There was word of another investigation into the fact that while MPD were at Tony's there wasan actual crime across town.

    Had they admittedthe Police at Tony's were wrong, itwould have also been a defacto admission of guilt in the other investigation!

    TOUGH CRAP! Not just one cover up......TWO!!!

    Philip, I'll be there with you again!


    This smells of a HUGE LAWSUIT.

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    BobCav wrote:
    There is a HUGE dynamic at play here and they HAD to respond exactly as they did!! There was word of another investigation into the fact that while MPD were at Tony's there wasan actual crime across town.

    Had they admittedthe Police at Tony's were wrong, itwould have also been a defacto admission of guilt in the other investigation!

    TOUGH CRAP! Not just one cover up......TWO!!!

    Philip, I'll be there with you again!

    Wife and I will be there -- That's 4 Counting Philip.



    DC

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    I'll be there, but this isn't exactly a loss, folks.

    This resultedin massive publicity for legal open carry and the VCDL. Then there is the apology from the Chief for the foul language and the promise of discipline for the officers involved. Couple this with the admission that thefirst responding officer was both "confused" about the law and "ineffectual" (both massive insults to any police officer, especially when coming in writing from the Chief).Then there isthe positive education the Manassas police officers have already received and education the Chief noted they will recieve in the future.

    Sure, we should push for more. But we have already won, actually. This won't be happening again in Manassas anytime soon.

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    Founder's Club Member Tess's Avatar
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    7 when you count Dave, me, and our very own Jason.
    Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. -Albert Einstein

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    SicSemper made some exellent points , but the arrogance of the Chief is hard to ignore .

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    As one of the Tony's 7 I will certainly be there too! So much for an unbias, complete, truthful, factual investigation. Seems more like a C.Y.A. report. Yes I agree that we need as many VCDL members as possible to show real support and let the City know that the Chief's report is nothing but a whitewash and a lot of spin.

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    Founder's Club Member - Moderator longwatch's Avatar
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    I'll be there, of course.

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    I'll come, but I need my 3 other partners in crime to join me. I've got some fresh Michellins, so we should'nt have a repeat of last time.

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    Founder's Club Member Hawkflyer's Avatar
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    Depending on the date I will be there too.
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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    Regular Member IanB's Avatar
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    I

    Will

    Be

    There

    Once again, with a still camera. And... plenty of things to say.

    And I hope the Mayor doesn't get all high and mighty like last time, "We will take care of city bussiness first, and you all can watch and experience civics in action. I hope this is educational for you if you have not experienced something like this before".

    I think it was the MAYOR and city council, not VCDL who learned a civics lesson THAT night.

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    Just the standard SOP from the Blue Wall of Defiance. Was anybody, in their right mind, actually thinking it would be any different?

    This is the way 'they' do what they can to cover up all 'they' can; "nothing to see here just move along"

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    I'll be there...just day the word.

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    Everyone in favor of open carry RAISE YOUR HANDS!

    Virginia Police Face Off Against Armed Pizza Parlor Patrons


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    Founder's Club Member - Moderator longwatch's Avatar
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    Just in case anyone missed it, April 9th is the date we will be attending the city council meeting.

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    I should be there too...

    as a side note: there was some interesting statements from Chief Skinner in a recent article on MCPD ManassasJM->Harrover wants more city police

    Adding officers would also alleviate the burden on the staff. Three of the department's officers are serving overseas as full-time reservists and have been gone quite some time. That places additional work on what typically are nine- to 10-member patrol squads, which have a hard time pulling away from their duties in order to prevent street crimes like robberies.
    "Regular patrol officers are assigned very rigid shift schedules," Skinner said. "And they respond from call to call. ... Everything from parking complaints to shoplifters. They are very busy and don't have the non-directed patrol time to do what needs to be done. We don't have that flexibility with our patrol force."
    nothing like having over half to the patrol squad harassing citizens on their "very rigid shift schedules".

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    In reading the letter from the Chief.... It seems to the the appropriate response.

    Did anyone really expect anything other than what was provided? :P

    It addressed the wrong doing by the officers that could be identified. It also addressed the officers did not know the law in regards to OC and they will receive additional training. This is a good thingas all the officers will now know you can legally OC.

    Most departments do a random audit of an officer's chat. In doing one officer's daily chat.. they will also see incoming messages from other officers. So they really see chat from several people from one log. This is allot of reading so they cannot do ever officer, every day. It appears that the Chief will have a larger sample checked in the future.

    I personally did not have a problem with the Chief's letter. The letter was probably type up for him by his staff and hesigned it. If you think the Chief is willing to "cover up" the wrong doings of the officers.....you have something else to think about.

    I know it is hard to believe.... butin any large organization.... The man at the top does not care about the lemmings at the bottom. He will always do what is good for the organization.... not the individual lemming. The man at the top wantsto keep his high paying job.






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    VA is a "one party recording" state, right? Small tape recorders are cheap insurance in situations like this, and take up precious little room. Imagine how this complaint would have turned out differently if someone had recorded the verbal exchange.

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    44Brent wrote:
    Everyone in favor of open carry RAISE YOUR HANDS!

    Virginia Police Face Off Against Armed Pizza Parlor Patrons
    Everyone that's in favor of the Manassas Police....raise BOTH hands!





    Skinner wins the "Bad Cop" award...



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    Founder's Club Member Hawkflyer's Avatar
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    ScottNH wrote:
    VA is a "one party recording" state, right?* Small tape recorders are cheap insurance in situations like this, and take up precious little room.* Imagine how this complaint would have turned out differently if someone had recorded the verbal exchange.
    As I said before it would have helped if all 7 people had filed. In the final analysis it comes down to a preponderance of the evidence. In this case it was 7 to two that they behaved correctly. If it had been 7 to 7 it would have been much harder to sweep it away.

    The fact that all 7 may have been interviewed is irrelevant. The chief only had to address the two actual complaints. What I found interesting is that he claims to have interviewed other customers. The "Retired marine" was easy to find. How did he find the others?

    Also remember, Tony's personnel did not seem very friendly towards all this when they were interviewed by the media. If they said the same things to the investigators in this situation, that went against your claim as well.

    All things considered, this was the best result you could have expected. That does not mean it is the correct result or that I personally support it. Just that is was what I would have expected.

    Regards
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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    Hawkflyer wrote:
    All things considered, this was the best result you could have expected. That does not mean it is the correct result or that I personally support it. Just that is was what I would have expected.
    It definitely turned out pretty well for the OC movement and for the diffusion of the idea that OC is both legal and OK. The chief had to admit his guys were "confused" and in violation of some dept. regs. He even had to order "remedial" training for some of his guys.

    Not only MCPD but all other VA PDs now have no excusefor mishandling future legalOCer/LEO interactions. MCPD got a black eye on this one.

    The men in Tony's 7, by being cool, calm and composed (God, it must have been tempting to say something nasty to the yapping terrierClodfelter!), made the uncomfortable (for them) event turn out to be a big plus for OCers in VA and even other states. If even one of them had acted like a hothead or a showoff, the story would have been much different.

    Hats off to those guys. They deserve much credit.


    I don't grok the "HUGE SUIT" that Bob istouting. What are the damages?

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    Rev - New tires........sign me up! BubbaRon, Doc, yall busy on the 9th of April?

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    Went into Tony's for lunch (no gun but armed with a VCDL shirt) . Two MPD officers inside that looked at me as if they expected fireballs from my eyes and lightning bolts from my arse . Maybe it was the horns on my head........

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    I'm going to try my darndest to be there this time depending on date and time.

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    Founder's Club Member Tess's Avatar
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    All, think about it.

    I have nothing but respect for Philip - and he should speak. He brings experience, credibility, presence, and the weight of VCDL.



    However, for him to speak and say "that's not what happened" is one thing.



    I'd urge as many of the 7 as possible - those who are willing - to sign up to speak. Sign up for up to 10 minutes - you don't have to use all those minutes. But tell your side. Tell about the language and the attitude used. You are the only ones who can be credible about that part of the whole story.
    Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. -Albert Einstein

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