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Thread: Handcuffed and ejected from Festival in the Park

  1. #1
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    Handcuffed and ejected from Festival in the Park

    At the end of May, I had an encounter with the staff of Festival in the Park. This Monday, I spoke to the Roanoke City Council about it. A video recording (RealPlayer format) of the meeting is available in the City Council's archives, with my address beginning at 2:17:44. You can also read my prepared remarks:




    Mr. Mayor, Honorable City Council Members:

    I want to tell you about my experience at Festival in the Park, operated by EventZone in Elmwood Park over Memorial Day weekend.

    On Sunday, May 29th, I took my wife and daughters to the festival. For my protection and my family's protection, I was carrying an openly-displayed handgun, properly secured in its holster. Shortly after I arrived, I was confronted by Mr. Travis Sorrells, the President of Festival in the Park, who told me that it was against the festival rules for me to have my pistol there. When I protested that I was in a public park, Mr. Sorrells claimed that EventZone had rented the park, as well as the surrounding sidewalks and adjoining street. He also claimed that the festival was an entirely private affair that had nothing to do with the City of Roanoke.

    It turns out that these claims are untrue. I requested copies of the City's records pertaining to the festival, and there is nothing in anything I received that reflects a rental of the streets or sidewalks. Furthermore, I found that EventZone executed a contract with the City and was paid $148,932 to operate this festival and other festivals throughout the year. If EventZone is obligated to run the festival pursuant to a six-figure contract with the City, I don't see how Mr. Sorrells can claim that the City has nothing to do with it.

    However, I didn't know about any of this on the 29th of May, so I had no reason to doubt Mr. Sorrell's claim of authority to set rules for the park. I had reviewed the Festival's web page, www.roanokefestival.org, which lists very few rules. It did not and still does not say anything about firearms. Nevertheless, in light of Mr. Sorrells apparent authority, I returned to my vehicle, stored my pistol, put my jacket back on, and rejoined my family.

    I was subsequently accosted by EventZone's security agents, who started to make wild accusations against me. One man, who did not give his name, accused me of breaking laws that prohibit the possession of firearms within a thousand feet of a courthouse or public library. Another man, Mr. Jeff Taylor, would later accuse me of breaking a law that proscribes possession within a thousand feet of the Social Security building. There's a fundamental problem with their accusations: the laws they cite do not actually exist.

    When I told them as much, the man whose name I didn't get began to demand that I submit to a search to prove that I had complied with their earlier request, telling me that he'd call the police and have them perform the search if I didn't do so voluntarily. I have very little tolerance for people who try to enforce nonexistent laws, and even less for those who try to bully me into giving up my personal liberty. I refused.

    The police were called, and I was handcuffed and thoroughly searched in front of my wife and daughters. Sergeant John Stephens determined that I had not committed any crime, and told me that because this was the City's festival, I could not be prevented from openly carrying my handgun. That came as a great surprise, given Mr. Sorrell's earlier claims.

    There are several things wrong here. First, by prohibiting the possession of firearms at its festivals through the actions of its agent, EventZone, the City is illegally regulating firearms in violation of Virginia Code §15.2-915. I demand that the City immediately rescind its unlawful regulation, and direct its agents to do the same.

    Second, EventZone is claiming that a festival funded by public money, held on public property, and open to the public, is a private event. They are reaping the benefits of taxpayer funding, and then using their authority to deny access to members of the public who have done nothing wrong – even on sidewalks that they haven't rented. They need to be reminded that the City belongs to the people, and not to EventZone.

    Third, EventZone's security is incompetent. Agents who make up their own laws have no business in the security field. Mr. Taylor in particular ought to know better, given that he is apparently an NRA instructor who is paid to teach firearms law. I intend to follow up with DCJS, and so I want to be given the names of the security agents involved and that of their agency. Although the contract with EventZone requires them to file a written security plan that includes this information, it appears that they failed to do so – when I specifically requested a copy of that document, the City was unable to provide it. As a result, I have no idea whether these agents are even licensed to provide private security, or whether they were doing so illegally.

    Finally, the City needs to reconsider its relationship with EventZone. Mr. Sorrells claims that the City had nothing to do with Festival in the Park. If I were a member of this council, I would be moving to make that a reality by terminating the City's contract with EventZone and cutting off their funding. I trust that you will take appropriate action.

    Thank you for your time.

  2. #2
    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Wow, what a horrible experience. Great job before the board. What if anything are you expectig from your testimony. If the officer agreed you did nothing wrong why did he search you? Have you consulted an attorney about your experience? Are you planning to seek legal damages?
    Last edited by thebigsd; 09-24-2011 at 06:13 PM.
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    With what ever retribution you may seek against those that have wronged you have you also thought about contacting the NRA to see if you can get the Mr Taylor's instructor certification recinded since he is dangerous to others who he might try to "instruct" on the laws he doesn't know.
    Last edited by mobeewan; 09-24-2011 at 05:10 PM.

  4. #4
    Regular Member Lord Sega's Avatar
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    This really bothers me...

    ... besides all of the issues that you have already addressed...

    Quote Originally Posted by Tosta Dojen View Post
    The police were called, and I was handcuffed and thoroughly searched in front of my wife and daughters. Sergeant John Stephens determined that I had not committed any crime, and told me that because this was the City's festival, I could not be prevented from openly carrying my handgun. That came as a great surprise, given Mr. Sorrell's earlier claims.
    ... If the police state that you were legal to OC at the City's festival, then why did the LEOs handcuff you (illegal detain) and search you (also illegal)?
    What was the RAS especially when the Sergeant states you are legal (stated after the illegal detain and search)?
    This, by itself, looks like a lawsuit, or at least a complaint. Detain & search for what they then confirm is legal.
    The Sergeant should have informed Mr. Sorrell first thing that it is legal to OC in the festival. The LEOs should never have detained, let alone searched you.

    After the Sergeant's statement that you are legal to OC, I would have informed him that you intend to go back to your car and re-arm and re-enter the festival and that Mr. Sorrel can go pound sand.

  5. #5
    Regular Member SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    This is disgusting behavior on the part of all of the offending parties and I do hope you continue pursuing this to the point of making you whole. The fact that this happened in Virginia is most disturbing to me. Stay the course.
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  6. #6
    Regular Member ProShooter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tosta Dojen View Post
    Mr. Taylor in particular ought to know better, given that he is apparently an NRA instructor who is paid to teach firearms law.
    I would LOVE to know who this guy is, so that I make sure not to refer any business to him.
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  7. #7
    Regular Member jnojr's Avatar
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    Please sue them all.

    EventZone the company, Travis Sorrells personally, this Jeff Taylor, the City of Roanoke, the PD/SO... all of them.

    I'd let the city off the hook if they threw EventZone under the bus and severed all connection with them. I'd let the PD off of the hook with a firm, enforceable change in training and policy to prevent a re-occurrence. I'd want money from EventZone and Sorrells, and for EventZone to fire Sorrells and Taylor.
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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Sega View Post
    ... besides all of the issues that you have already addressed...
    ... If the police state that you were legal to OC at the City's festival, then why did the LEOs handcuff you (illegal detain) and search you (also illegal)?
    What was the RAS especially when the Sergeant states you are legal (stated after the illegal detain and search)?
    This, by itself, looks like a lawsuit, or at least a complaint. Detain & search for what they then confirm is legal.
    The Sergeant should have informed Mr. Sorrell first thing that it is legal to OC in the festival. The LEOs should never have detained, let alone searched you.

    After the Sergeant's statement that you are legal to OC, I would have informed him that you intend to go back to your car and re-arm and re-enter the festival and that Mr. Sorrel can go pound sand.
    IANAL and all that useless stuff. However, based on the private security officer's (supposed) claim that the OP had entered the grounds wth a now-concealed firearm after having been ejected for carrying openly, the cop may have has RAS to detain and thus authotity to do a Terry search. Once the cop determined that carry was not prohibited he was required to release the OP.

    What gets me is that there is no mention of the cop taking time to research the question - from the OP's description the cop seemed to know from the beginning that carry was not prohibited. If that were the case then RAS takes a swan dive onto the rocks from the very beginning.

    In any case I urge the OP to shut up and secure the services of an attorney experienced in winning civil suits agains government agents and their contractors.

    stay safe.
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    They did what!?!!


    Please consider and check into a lawsuit.


    If that is not in the cards, then lets hammer the crud out them with a campaign. I'm not willing to tolerate that nonsense in VA. We've spent too much time and too much sweat to put up with it.

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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen View Post
    They did what!?!!


    Please consider and check into a lawsuit.
    This has gotten to be business as usual in Roanoke Citizen.
    This is at least the second serious encounter the OP has had there. The first was litigated in Federal Court and the court decided that even though the Officers were VERY WRONG...it was OK because they meant well.

    There are some questions in my mind about the OP's representation I won't get into just now. I've said before that a GOOD lawyer without ant conflicts is worth their weight in gold.

  11. #11
    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    SNIP I've said before that a GOOD lawyer without ant conflicts is worth their weight in gold.
    User, where are you?
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebigsd View Post
    User, where are you?
    Phone booths are a thing of the past, so it takes a little longer.



    I hope he understands this is meant in admiration. He's one guy I would not want mad at me!

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    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    This has gotten to be business as usual in Roanoke Citizen.
    This is at least the second serious encounter the OP has had there. The first was litigated in Federal Court and the court decided that even though the Officers were VERY WRONG...it was OK because they meant well.

    There are some questions in my mind about the OP's representation I won't get into just now. I've said before that a GOOD lawyer without ant conflicts is worth their weight in gold.
    Hmmmmm. Time for a trip to Roanoke maybe.

  14. #14
    Regular Member Lord Sega's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skidmark View Post
    ... (snip)
    from the OP's description the cop seemed to know from the beginning that carry was not prohibited. If that were the case then RAS takes a swan dive onto the rocks from the very beginning.

    In any case I urge the OP to shut up and secure the services of an attorney experienced in winning civil suits agains government agents and their contractors.

    stay safe.
    That was my point, no RAS for the detain & search especially when the LEO knew that OC was legal beforehand.

    BUT I will add: if CC is not legal (or he doesn't have a CC permit) then the LEO had RAS for the detain & search (maybe...
    can a LEO detain & search based on the security guards suspicion he might be CC, especially if the OP states that the weapon is secured in his car?
    My other question is... is CC at the festival legal? Did the OP have a CC permit (if required), or was the OP OC w/o permit only?

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    Founder's Club Member - Moderator ed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tosta Dojen View Post
    When I protested that I was in a public park, Mr. Sorrells claimed that EventZone had rented the park
    http://www.vaag.com/Opinions%20and%20Legal%20Resources/Opinions/2010opns/10-009-Greason.pdf


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    What they said. And I must add/ask: If the LEO determined you were legal and legit, and basically told you to go strap on the roscoe, why were you ejected from the park, and by whom?

    I smell something. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
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    Regular Member sparkman2's Avatar
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    I read the AG opinion and quite frankly, it is very thorough in explaining a situation such as this. However, if the private company so desires to ban firearms at their event, then they too must comply with the law and notify the event participants of this regulation at the entrance or on the website. I personally don't open carry and it is a choice. Out of sight, out of mind.

  18. #18
    Regular Member Badger Johnson's Avatar
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    By essentially being forced to comply with the illegal demands of security, the OP was then put in a position where the LEO had RAS to be handcuffed. That's hilariously ironic; and tragic for 2A rights. In Virginia, no less where, according to Grapeshot, stuff like this can be forgiven, or something(*). o_0

    (*) Kidding here, of course, Grape.
    Last edited by Badger Johnson; 09-25-2011 at 07:52 AM.
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  19. #19
    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    Ed,

    In spite of the gentleman's assertion, his company had not rented the park. They had been, according to the information provided, hired by the city to perform the specific function of providing entertainment to city residents and visitors from outside the city.

    The direction of the flow of money seems to be extremely important in determining if the AG's opinion is germane or not. Since in this case the money was being given to them in return for providing goods and services to city residents at the direction of the city, I do not see anything in the opinion having any impact. There is little if any way they cannot be described as the agent of the city.

    stay safe.
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    There seem to be several conclusions in this thread that the cops being told that the OP perhaps returned carrying concealed would give the cops RAS. I think this is incorrect. Even if they knew he was carrying concealed that would not seem to give RAS of a crime, but would instead allow them to ask to see his permit.

    Now we don't know what security told the cops, they may have asserted things that would give RAS, but I do not think asserting he is or may be carrying concealed is sufficient for RAS allowing for a lawful detention.

  21. #21
    Activist Member nuc65's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkman2 View Post
    I read the AG opinion and quite frankly, it is very thorough in explaining a situation such as this. However, if the private company so desires to ban firearms at their event, then they too must comply with the law and notify the event participants of this regulation at the entrance or on the website. I personally don't open carry and it is a choice. Out of sight, out of mind.
    Interesting, this is an open carry forum so the discussion centers around abrogation/violation of constitutional rights of someone who chooses to open carry (OC).
    When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force.

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  22. #22
    Regular Member wylde007's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    Quote Originally Posted by skidmark View Post
    However, based on the private security officer's (supposed) claim that the OP had entered the grounds wth a now-concealed firearm after having been ejected for carrying openly, the cop may have has RAS to detain and thus authority to do a Terry search.
    I still don't see a crime being committed.

    Being ejected from a public event for open carry, having the responding officer affirm that open carry is not prohibited and then ARRESTING AND SEARCHING the individual is an unlawful seizure. Concealed carry is not a crime - and HANDCUFFING a citizen on such suspicion is disgraceful.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wylde007 View Post
    I still don't see a crime being committed.
    It sounds to me like there was a crime, but is was comitted by the security and/or the cops, not the op.

  24. #24
    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nuc65 View Post
    Interesting, this is an open carry forum so the discussion centers around abrogation/violation of constitutional rights of someone who chooses to open carry (OC).
    I noticed that too Nuc! I recall the same thing coming out of another poster with very few posts from Hampton. Ignore him...for a while anyway

  25. #25
    Regular Member wylde007's Avatar
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    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonesy View Post
    It sounds to me like there was a crime, but is was committed by the security and/or the cops, not the op.
    Touché.

    I meant by the OP, dingus.
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