I can't remember where I read this story, but I have it saved on my computer.
I (Trevor Putnam ) had been shopping for groceries at the Walker Springs Wal-Mart with my girlfriend, Samantha Williams. I was dressed neatly enough in clean blue Levis and a grey T-shirt, tucked in. My carry firearm, a Colt Concealed Carry Officers Model, was holstered and safed on my right hip in a Brommeland IWB holster. As it was warm that night, I left my jacket in the car, and neglected to un-tuck my shirt over the firearm. We proceeded to shop for groceries for the next 20 minutes. At no time did anyone I encountered in the store raise alarm or cause panic over the sight of my carry firearm. After paying for our groceries, we exited the store and passed Officer Greene in the foyer, who was engaged in conversation with a Wal-Mart Employee. He was located against the wall, to my right. My hands were both on the cart at the time I passed him, my girlfriend was holding my left arm. After I had passed him, I heard Officer Greene exclaim “hey!” and I half-turned to respond to him. He came towards me quickly, and said “You got any ID on you, buddy?” I responded “Yes, I have my carry permit” thinking that he likely wanted to make sure I was licensed to carry a firearm. Both my hands were still on the cart at this time.
He then said “Let me see”, and I then reached for my front pants pocket, when I keep my wallet. At this time, Officer Greene took my wrist in his hand, twisted it back and away, and placed his other hand in my back, forcing me forward into the concrete wall just outside the outer door of the store. This movement caused me to lose my grip on my full cart of groceries, and it began to roll out into the parking lot. As the officer was pushing me forward, I held out my left hand to keep from hitting the wall with full force. When I moved my left hand to protect my face and chest from hitting the wall, Officer Greene shouted “Put ‘em up, keep those hands up there” and pulled my other hand over my head as he pushed my body into the wall. He then kicked and pushed at my ankles with his boots to cause me to stand spread-eagle against the wall. I attempted to inform him that I did have a TN Handgun Carry Permit, and that my mode of carry was legal, to which he yelled “It’s a concealed carry permit, don’t you know what concealed means?” I responded, still calmly, that in TN, “The state code doesn’t specify concealed carry; it’s simply a handgun carry permit.” This statement seemed to make Officer Greene even angrier, and he shouted “Do you think you know more about the law than me? I’ve been a police officer here for 7 years!” I replied “In this case, since we teach the Handgun Carry Permit Course where I work, I’m sure I know this law.” Officer Greene yelled again “I don’t care what you teach, you can’t go around carrying a gun where people can see it. Where do you work?” I informed him that I worked at Coal Creek Armory.
Officer Greene took my wallet, my car keys, both of my pocketknives, and kept his hand on my carry firearm as he called in my driver license to dispatch. In between speaking into his radio, he continued to berate me for carrying my firearm, and emphasized several time that I was incorrect about open carry. I attempted to inform him otherwise, still polite and calm, as I knew I had violated no law. Officer Greene informed me that “My probably cause is that you’re carrying a gun out here, inciting a panic, and that’s all it takes for you to sleep in jail tonight.” I stated, again, that my carry permit was valid, and TN State law permitted handgun carry open or concealed, and that I usually carry concealed. He said that my permit had “better say just that, handgun carry,” but even if it did, he’d just “find some other reason to take me in, disorderly conduct, or inciting a panic. I’ll make some reason.” I was shocked to hear him openly state that he would manufacture probable cause to falsely arrest me, in the hearing of my girlfriend, standing no less than 5 feet away, the Wal-Mart employee he had been speaking with, and the small crowd of bystanders watching.
Officer Greene attempted to draw my firearm to remove it from my holster, but I informed him there were belt snaps on it, and he could just undo them. He did so, and removed firearm and holster from my belt, and then asked me “Is this loaded, one in the chamber? Do you think you can just walk around like that with a loaded gun out in the open?” I confirmed that my defensive firearm was, in fact, loaded and chambered, with the safety on. He asked me “Now, am I gonna find anything else on you? You got anything else I need to know about?” I looked down and saw that he had not removed my Surefire flashlight from my front left pocket, and could feel the tiny CRKT pocketknife in my 5.11 boots pocket. He has missed them while frisking me, and I informed him of their location. He removed them , and then berated me for carrying more than one knife, asking me “what’s your problem, why are you carrying so many knives?” I told him that customers often prefer to buy the knife a salesperson uses, and so I carried one for opening boxes, and two “just in case” to show customers. He registered strong disbelief.
He continued “When I carry off duty, how do you think I carry my gun? It’s concealed, has to be concealed by law. You think the law’s any different for you and me? I’ve been a police officer here in Knoxville for seven years, and I’ve never seen anyone with a permit open carrying.”
I informed him that concealed carry off duty was a KPD regulation(I know a bit about KPD carry regulations, having dated the sister of a KPD officer for 2 years, and have a few more as customers and personal friends), but that a TN Handgun Carry Permit allowed for open or concealed carry. I stated that I had just left work, picked up my girlfriend, and went straight to Wal-Mart, and was carrying just as I had all day at work.
Officer Greene then told me to have a seat, stood in front of me on the bench, and continued to berate me for carrying a firearm. He handed me my wallet, told me to get my permit out from under my driver license. I did so, and handed it to him. He looked at it, and I stated “Handgun carry permit, doesn’t specify concealed.” He stated that that was “no excuse” for walking around with a gun out in the open, and said that I was lucky he was so gentle, because some of his fellow officers would have had me “proned-out on the ground” as soon as I walked past them with a firearm on my hip. “Is that how you think I should deal with you?” I said “However you think it should be handled” and remained quiet, as I did not wish to enter into an argument. I asked him to hand my girlfriend the keys to my car, so that she could put away our groceries, which he did.
At this point his backup arrived in a cruiser, and he told me to stay put, and asked the Red-shirted Loss Prevention Wal-Mart employee to watch me, and then went to speak to the other officer. I looked over at my girlfriend who was understandably upset, and tried to console her. When the officer returned with his partner, he handed me back my work keys, knives and light, and told me to “put them away” and then handed me back my holstered firearm, and said “take it, and conceal it. Do it.” I retrieved my items, put them away, and asked if I was free to leave. He nodded, and I retrieved my girlfriend, and walked to my car.
Points of Complaint-
TCA §39-13-101 - Assault. At no time before, after or during the incident of the 21st was there any probable Officer Greene to lay hands upon me, or to subsequently propel me towards a building wall. Officer Greene or any other officer of the law, as per TCA§39-17-1351, may disarm a permit holder within the course of his duties, but only “when the officer reasonably believes it is necessary for the protection of the permit holder, officer or other individual or individuals.” As I had no suspicious appearance and was engaged in no criminal or even suspicious activity, nor indeed any activity other than walking out of a public store, at normal speed with my hands in plain view; reasonable belief that I represented a danger or threat to any person could not have been based simply upon view of a holstered firearm. Officer Greene’s claim that I was “inciting a panic” was absurd, as he was the only person to object to my legally carried firearm during my visit to the store, unless he himself was panicked.
The same opinion makes it clear that Tennessee State law does not require a person granted a Handgun Carry Permit under TCA §39-17-1351, to carry such a firearm concealed. Hence, no probable cause for detainment, frisk, or disarmament existed, other than my legal carry of a handgun. The act of carrying a firearm openly does not, on its own, represent a crime, and therefore, is not, by itself, probable cause for the officer to disarm such a person carrying a firearm legally, as per the Attorney General’s instruction of October 11, 2005. His ignorance of the TN Code’s absence of a requirement that a legally carried handgun be concealed, and the Attorney General’s clarification of this stance, is no excuse for his illegal handling of my person or property.
Illegal Search - As per the Tennessee State Constitution, Sec. 7, TN citizens are to be “secure in their persons… from unreasonable searches and seizures”. As no legal probable cause for my physical detainment existed, Officer Greene’s subsequent frisk and seizure of my personal property, including my wallet, flashlight, keys and carry firearm, constitute an illegal search under TN law. “Officer safety” is not a valid defense to this Section when the underlying cause for the disarmament is legally invalid.
In conclusion, I will state that I appreciate the difficult and demanding job Knoxville Police officers have taken on as their profession, and that they must at all times keep their own safety to the forefront. However, these concerns cannot be permitted to override the individual right of the people of TN to be free from arbitrary, unlawful or uninformed police action as they peaceably go about their business.
I would have been happy to provide identification as asked, and attempted to do so, as asked, and responded politely and respectfully to questions of comments. I would have even complied with a polite request that I conceal my firearm, to prevent uneasiness on the part of other shoppers, even though it is not required by law. However, the officer made the choice to physically handle me in a rough manner, and further subjected me to ill-informed harassment on the statues of the State of Tennessee.
This is utterly unacceptable, both on the part of the officer who made the decision to forcibly restrain, then to attempt to instruct me, and on the part of the police dept that permitted an officer of their department to go so woefully uneducated on TN law for his stated 7 years of employment with the Knoxville Police Dept.
To further hear a duly sworn officer of the law announce, in front of multiple witnesses that he would “find some cause” to wrongfully imprison me, is beyond shocking to me. I can’t imagine what was running through his mind when he made that statement to me, but I cannot and will not assume that such behavior is permitted or condoned by the KPD, unless of course, the Knoxville Police Department’s high-ranking authority figures fail to strongly demonstrate otherwise.
The state of Tennessee recognizes and grants a regulated and restricted right to keep and bear arms, and those who have undergone the arduous process of obtaining a TN Handgun Carry Permit are not the enemy of the police officer, but rather, his ally. At my place of business, we have certified hundreds of people through the TN Handgun Carry Permit Class, and encourage all of them to behave in a safe, sane and above all, legal manner. To have that trust that their Handgun Carry Permit, when finally issued after multiple checks, will not be properly recognized or respected by KPD officers when it is exercised, is inexcusable to myself and all people in the State of Tennessee. Many hundreds of Knoxvillians, new and seasoned shooters alike attained carry permits, in the wake of the Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom murders, and they will watch closely for the Department’s official response to this utterly incorrect handling of a TN Carry Permit holder.
- I have not, at this time, retained counsel for redress of the aforementioned violations of my rights under the law, but reserve the right to do so. I will, should I choose to file suit, copy you on the service as a courtesy.
Lieutenant Ferguson, I appreciate your attention to this matter, and hope that we will correspond further regarding the department’s response. Should you wish to reach me for a meeting regarding this matter, please feel free to contact me at 865.567.1181. "