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Gun owners complain about treatment in West Valley City

June 17th, 2008 @ 10:05pm
Sarah Dallof reporting
A group of gun owners is upset with the West Valley City police force. They claim officers are treating them unfairly because they choose to carry their weapons in shoulder and hip holsters, completely out in the open.
In Utah, there are places no one but law enforcement can take a gun, and there are restrictions, for example people without a concealed carry permit can't openly carry a loaded gun, but much of the time, it's allowed.
Jared Belcher is among those who choose to carry a gun. "It's a Bursa Thunder 380 I carry just about every day," he says. He carries it on his belt, out in the open. He said, "Most people, surprisingly, don't notice I have it."
Belcher says he's never had a problem taking the gun anywhere, but he's concerned because others he's met through the organization have. Travis Deveraux says he was walking in his West Valley neighborhood when an officer pulled up, pulled out her gun and ordered him on the ground.
"At the end there were a total of eight officers who'd cuffed me up, taken my firearm. But they let me go because there was nothing wrong I'd done," Deveraux said.
Belcher and Deveraux joined more than a dozen other gun owners tonight at the West Valley city council meeting to voice concerns about how the city's police force has handled several situations.
Scott Thompson, who also openly carries his gun, said, "A lot of the officers seem to be ignorant of the fact that carrying a firearm openly in public is perfectly legal in Utah, if done properly."
Wayne Pyle, the city manager for West Valley City, said, "Until today I'd never heard there was any concern, complaint or incident." He had limited time to research the cases but says it appears West Valley Police handled them appropriately. He adds that in any situation where officers know someone has a gun, they're extra cautious. "This is a different day and age than the late 19th century. It's not common to see people wearing side-arms on the street," he said.
After hearing the group's comments, the city council recommended the citizens file their complaints with the city's Professional Standards Review Board, which investigates concerns against officers.


See also related story at

Gun-toting citizen says WVC cops harassed him
By Mar├*a Villase├▒or
The Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated:06/17/2008 10:19:57 PM MDT

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Posted: 10:18 PM- WEST VALLEY CITY - With his Smith & Wesson .40 caliber, semi-automatic holstered on his right hip, Travis Deveraux addressed the mayor and City Council on Tuesday.
He has been harassed by West Valley City police for carrying that gun and treated like a criminal, Deveraux said.
"A criminal does not want [police] attention, and they will not openly carry a gun," he said.
With 10 other gun-toting civilians - who came from as far as Bountiful, Santaquin and Lehi - to support him, Deveraux told the council that their police department has consistently overreacted to his gun carrying. And in one occasion last year, he said, the police officers violated his civil rights.
Deveraux said he was walking around his neighborhood to exercise last December, when he was stopped by a Granite School District officer and "was informed that if I touched my gun, I would be killed." The officer called the West Valley City Police Department, Deveraux continued, three squad cars arrived, and he was detained and his gun taken from him - then, after a few minutes, he was released.
Those were violations of his federal and state constitutional rights, said the Swede who became an American citizen this January. And they are civil rights abuses that he has only encountered in West Valley City, Deveraux said.



"I don't blame them for being a little bit extra careful," he said, noting that the crime rate is high in Utah's second largest city, "but there's a line they crossed between being a little bit careful and a little bit too careful."
Assistant Police Chief Craig Black said he hadn't been aware of the incident involving Deveraux until hearing about it at the City Council meeting. He said there would be a review of the case by the professional standards board to determined what happened.
Matt Murray of North Salt Lake said he has never been bothered by any police officers for openly carrying his gun. Kevin Jensen of Santaquin said he has had a few police encounters that were "very professional ... they just want to make sure you're not a nutcase." But Jeramiah McDonald of Lehi said he has had problems similar to Deveraux's.
McDonald said that because he is only 19 years old, he can't apply for a concealed weapons permit and his only option is to openly carry his guns. Because he felt police officers violated his civil rights, McDonald has filed a lawsuit.
Deveraux said he doesn't want to sue anyone, or get an officer fired or fined. He wants West Valley City officers to be trained, or get more training on gun rights.
Mayor Dennis Nordfelt encouraged Deveraux to file a complaint with the professional standards review board, which oversees any resident problems with the police department.
Black said his police officers are trained on gun laws.