Weapons charges dropped against four Iron Pigs
By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal staff | Wednesday, November 19, 2008
A judge has ordered that concealed weapons charges be dismissed against four off-duty Washington police officers who were charged in connection with a shooting during the Sturgis rally.
Circuit Judge Warren Johnson ruled
Friday that Scott Lazalde, Dennis McCoy, James Rector and Ron Smith are exempt from prosecution under South Dakota state law because of the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act.
However, Johnson ruled that a concealed weapons charge against Erik Pingel, 35, of Aurora, Colo., can proceed.
Lazalde, 38, of Bellingham, Wash., and Rector, 44, Ferndale, Wash., are law enforcement officers with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service. McCoy, 58, of Seattle, Wash., is a Seattle police sergeant and Smith, 43, is a Seattle police detective. Pingel is a firefighter with the U.S. Department of Defense.
All are members of the Iron Pigs motorcycle club and all were carrying concealed pistols when they were arrested Aug. 7 at the Loud American Roadhouse bar in Sturgis following an altercation with Hells Angels.
During the scuffle Smith shot Hells Angel member Joseph Patrick McGuire of Imperial Beach, Calif. Smith originally was charged with assault and perjury but those charges were dismissed following a grand jury investigation. Smith has said he used his personal handgun in acting in self-defense.
Authorities have accused McGuire of starting the fight. He has pleaded not guilty to assault and has a status hearing on Wednesday. He has remained free on bond as he recuperates from his wounds.
Under a 2005 federal law, any qualified law enforcement officer carrying proper identification is allowed to carry a concealed weapon in any state except under certain circumstances.
"While states retain the right to prohibit the possession of firearms on government property and to permit private persons and entities to prohibit the possession of firearms on their property, they cannot restrict qualified law enforcement officers in any other manner," Johnson wrote in his memorandum opinion.
Defense attorney Robert Van Norman represented all five of the Iron Pigs.
"It's a great decision and should be reassuring to a lot of law enforcement officers all over the country," he said.
Meade County State's Attorney Jesse Sondreal could not be reached for comment Monday.
Meanwhile, a concealed weapons charge against Pingel can proceed, Johnson ruled. Pingel has a concealed weapons permit in Colorado, which has a reciprocity agreement with South Dakota. However, his carrying the weapon into a bar violated South Dakota law, according to the memorandum decision.
All of the weapons charges are class 1 misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Contact Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419 or firstname.lastname@example.org