Tuesday, June 01, 2004
To those that have charge over the public servants involved in the following situation;
This is a formal complaint against these officers, (one being a county unit). Please do what needs to be done to make corrective actions that will insure your officers stay within their legal authority. Violating anyone’s civil rights without cause is most certainly going to leave a bad taste in citizens’ mouths. When the vast majority of the public is law-abiding citizens, the assumption of guilt is unwarranted. I would hope that other citizens operating inside the law would not have been treated so poorly as on this day.
Saturday, May 22nd, 2004, Ellensburg, WA
Typically Ellensburg is windy. Since it wasn’t today, the wife decided it would be nice to take a walk. She would be flying across the nation the next day, so a stop at the bank would be necessary to get cash out for the trip.
I decided that since it is legal to bear arms in self-defense, today would be a good day to exercise this right. The manner in which I carry was determined by RCW 9.41.050, in which it declares I am a criminal if I choose to conceal my handgun. Without concealment, a number of options for carrying my gun are unavailable. Left with only the option of open carrying, I have decided on a manner that is as close to concealed as legally allowed. I have attached a clip to my firearm so the gun stays inside of my waistband, yet the clip insures the handle remains visible. I carry the gun up front, where I have quicker access and it is less likely to be taken away, (a Chelan officer was killed recently after having his gun taken from him.)
During our walk, we traveled through downtown Ellensburg, where the Farmers Market was being held. We also stopped by a local business to return a product I had purchased the previous week.
We then walked into the Washington Mutual bank, located inside of the Ellensburg Fred Meyers. The time was close to 11 am. I filled out the withdrawal slip with my wife standing beside me. As we turned around a young teller we recognized said he could help us at his station. We walked to his station, handing him the withdrawal slip. I swiped my bankcard and entered my pin. I asked for my change in twenties, tens, and a hundred ones.
He turned and asked the manager if his machine would have enough ones until getting re-supplied. The answer was yes, so the teller pushed some buttons on his machine and it started spitting out my bills. My wife stepped outside the bank, looking at patio furniture directly outside of the banks entrance. When the machine stopped, I reached down and took my bills and said have a nice day.
I turned towards my wife, as I did the teller stepped around the front of his station because the machine had started spitting out more ones. Apparently, the machine had only dispensed 80 of the ones. I walked back, picked up the rest of my money and thanked him. I then turned around and looked at the patio furniture with my wife. She then picked up a shopping basket from the nearby stack and I proceeded to follow her around the store.
Approximately ten minutes later I was approached by an Ellensburg police officer. We were in the cosmetics department where my wife was trying to decide on eye shadow. I was doing my best to act interested.
I saw the officer from the corner of my eye.
The officer tilted his head looking at my handgun. While he gave me this suspicious look, he kept his right hand near his sidearm. I got a little nervous by his actions.
I turned towards him.
He said I see you have a gun on you.
I replied, yes.
He then told me why he was stopping me, a 911 call of a man with a gun.
I quizzically asked, "You just described a legal activity???"
He then told me he was investigating a 911 call of a man with a gun.This was the point that I had started to become agitated. The officer apparently decided that the legal activity of open carrying was call for further investigation. A 911 call describing a visible legal activity and coming to the scene and finding said legal activity is not grounds for reasonable suspicion that would warrant further investigation. The United States Supreme Court ruled on this issue in Florida vs. J.L., (No. 98-1993), stating:“The reasonable suspicion here at issue requires that a tip be reliable in its assertion of illegality, not just in its tendency to identify a determinate person. This Court also declines to adopt the argument that the standard Terry analysis should be modified to license a "firearm exception," under which a tip alleging an illegal gun would justify a stop and frisk even if the accusation would fail standard pre-search reliability testing.”The tip in my situation being a 911 call which described the legal activity of open carrying. This ruling quite clearly states that just because the “tip” involves a gun, does not give reason for the suspension of an individual’s rights. Since reasonable suspicion has not been met, to continue to perform investigation would be stepping outside of legal authority. I feel that when a public servant decides to violate my rights, becoming agitated is a reasonable response. I gave him another chance to stop his harassment by stating the following:
It is quite legal for me to be shopping with my wife legally open carrying my handgun.With this statement, I made it painfully obvious that what I was doing was legal. Without a “tip” describing a crime and without reasonable suspicion of a crime, further investigation was unwarranted. Even if the officer was assuming guilt under RCW 9.41.270, the decision for arrest of this law does not require an ID check. He decided against leaving the law-abiding citizen and presumed guilt with his continued detainment and harassment.
He told me, "You need to calm down sir.”As if the "sir" on that order makes it polite. Now I had a public servant deciding to rule over the citizen. This was upsetting me further.
I told him, "No, I don't need to calm down. I need to stop being harassed for a legal activity."
He asked for my ID.
I asked why I was being investigating for a legal activity?
He gave the line investigating a 911-call investigation again. And asked if I was refusing to give him ID? I was being pushed further.
I gave him my ID, telling him I didn't enjoy his company or the harassment. (But at least, now he had my ID, so he could do his "investigating an investigation" garbage and leave my wife and I alone.)
He looked at me blankly for a couple of seconds, not moving or doing anything.
I asked him to do his job so he could leave us alone.
He just looked at me blinking his eyes showing his disgust. Then telling me, you need to calm down sir.
I told him again, "I DO NOT. You need to do your job and leave me alone."
I then asked, "Why are you still talking with me instead of doing your job?"
At which point he glared at me and stepped out of my face and started looking at my id.
He asked, is this your current address?
I responded, yes it is.
He then started running my ID, and stood back for a couple of seconds while doing that.
My wife and I chatted briefly then he stepped forward again and started with his opinion.
I said, "Why am I being harassed for a legal activity?"
He told me the investigating an investigation line again. And told me once again I needed to calm down and was making a scene.
I told him I did not need to calm down. He needed to stop harassing me and leave my wife and I alone.
At this point he took my gun, and called out the "code 1."
I said, "Code 1? What do you need a code one for? 5 officer's will be here in 2 minutes and THEN there will be a scene."
He told me he had only called for one additional unit.
I knew better and told him, "5 officers! Way to increase the level."
He stepped back and got the report back on me being legal.
I chatted with my wife. Brave soul she is... she was still checking out make-up.Officers came from everywhere. (I would like to say 4 more, but I never actually stopped to count, plus I think one left early.) The officer's all huddle up and the initial officer started relaying to them what a bad boy I had been. As I recall upon them breaking up their huddle, one quickly left saying something about needing to do some other paperwork.
The initial officer and others left to round up Fred Meyer managers in an attempt to get me removed from the store for open carrying.Now I had at least 4 officers, (one being a county unit), all of which didn’t care about reasonable suspicion and just wanted to lord it over on someone that wasn’t “friendly enough” towards their continual investigation towards the legal activity of open carrying. Since the initial officer assumed guilt and had already ran my ID, they in fact knew I was perfectly legal to do what I was doing yet still continued their detainment. Four public servants acting in violation of law was making me very upset.
One officer stayed with the wife and I, announcing his presence with line, "you need to calm down sir." He said this over the top of the discussion of law I was having with my wife.
I told him, “I did not ask for your opinion.”
He said, "well, I'm giving it to you anyway."
I let him talk with my wife. His first comment to her was. Do you know this man?
She said, yes, he is my husband.
He then said, what is his problem?
This is where she made the statement to the effect that people have been brainwashed against seeing a gun and open carrying.
I had a small conversation with this officer as well, him telling me how he always carrys, (concealed), even when off duty. But, he didn't need a CPL, (Concealed Pistol License). He also said open carrying was legal, but what the officers were doing was not harassment.
I told him how I had gone through all my life not realizing any citizens were actually carrying handguns, and being ignorant of that I might very well have voted to ban them all.
He asked if I had a conceal carry permit.
I told him I didn't need one for what I was doing.
He asked again, if I had the permit.
I said, no, I do not.
While getting grilled by him I watched as numerous Fred Meyer's managers came over, stood by officers and looked at me. They then walked away from the group of officers, obviously deciding against having me removed, (one of the managers, looking and smiling at me).
The officers re-huddled and upon breaking, one of them went off to the bank, coming back with the manager. The officers huddled with the bank manager for a minute and then the bank manager approached me.
The bank manager started by saying how I was always polite in his bank and enjoyed me as a customer. He then told me he was the victim of a robbery and that there was a 17-year-old teller that didn't know what to think when seeing the gun. He told me he believed that the corporate office had rules that concealed was all right, but that corporate security had rules against open carry, so he thought. He was not at all sure about corporate policy on this matter, either. This is where I felt officers prodded him in order to get me banned from open carrying. (Plus, after talking with Washington Mutual Corporate office they said they have no such policy).
And I know that Fred Meyer's managers were prodded. That happened directly in front of me, with the managers deciding against banning me from open carrying. That must be what a police line up feels like.Well, the bank manager left. The officers huddled up one more time, then the initial officer handed me my gun back, not saying anything to me, quickly turning and walking away. Yet only minutes before he had determined I was too "not calm" to carry my gun. One officer in the group did say have a nice day and I replied to all of them the same.