I have finally had one of those experiences I've been reading/hearing about for years now.
In the back of my head I've always smugly said to myself that it "only happens to other people" and such. Yep, I was wrong.
As opposed to me telling my story, I'm simply going to post the copy of the e-mail I've written to both the Mishawaka Police Department, and the Indiana State Police in Indianapolis.
I'm still a little angry and scared. I know I'm still awfully new here on these forums, but I'd love some input from you folks.
<Start of e-Mail>
My name is Robert Miller, and I am a private citizen who resides in the city of South Bend, Indiana.
I, on the advice of a police officer with whom I spoke to about an incident I was involved in earlier this evening, am writing to you.
Allow me to elaborate.
While visiting friends this evening in the nearby city of Mishawaka, Indiana, I, and a friend of mine, went to purchase groceries from a local Kroger's Supermarket. It's located at 906 South Merrifield Avenue, Mishawaka, IN 46544.
About five minutes after entering the store, at around 7:00 PM, a gentleman approached me and asked me if I was a law enforcement officer. I responded "no" to the question. He then, rather rudely and loudly, told me that "no" being the case, I should cover up my firearm.
Sure enough, I look down and see that my t-shirt was failing to cover the handle of the handgun holstered on my right hip.
Among legal handgun carriers, it's often considered polite to discreetly tell someone if they're "printing" or have a part of their weapon visible. Regardless of legality, I choose to carry concealed, as do most others.
I was about to thank him for pointing this out to me until I realized he was genuinely angry about the situation. He then informs me that I'm currently breaking the law, and can be arrested.
At this point I ask the gentleman who's approached me if he is, in fact, a law enforcement officer. This upsets him further. He is in "plain clothes" and has nothing that would identify him as a peace officer, other than a rather authoritarian demeanor.
His response is, "you know what, I just might be."
At this point I ask him to provide credentials. He refuses, and tells me, "you don't need to see them, you just need to cover your firearm."
I comply with his instructions, but am now quite uncomfortable with the situation.
I remove my cell phone, dial 411, and attempt to obtain the Mishawaka PD's non-emergency number. His demeanor changes rather drastically, he's walking away from me rather quickly, and I try to ask him one more time if he'd like to provide credentials. He does not.
He then retreats back to where his wife and child are shopping for groceries. I have not called anyone at this point, other than 411, but have taken the non-emergency number just in case this situation goes any further.
A few minutes later, both my friend and myself begin to notice the gentleman away from his family, and following us from a distance around the store. We conclude our shopping and begin to exit the establishment.
After I exit the doors, into the parking lot area, I find myself surrounded by uniformed police officers and squad cars.
I'm asked if I'm carrying a firearm, disarmed, and asked for my driver's license, and gun permit.
Once the dust has settled, the officers ask me for my "side of the story" as if a crime had been committed. I explain the situation to them, and they inform me that the gentleman following me had, indeed, contacted them about a firearms situation.
Needless to say, all of my licenses come back as valid and clean, and the serial number on my firearm does as well.
I ask them if the gentleman who approached me was a law enforcement officer, and re-emphasize the exchange that had taken place before they were called. The officer conducting the interview replied, "well, if he was, don't you think he'd be out here talking to us?"
My feelings ran along the same lines. Since he wasn't present at any point in time, I felt that perhaps they should have verified whether or not he was actually a police officer.
At no point in time did they attempt to question or detain this individual, who remained inside the store until I was in my vehicle and the police had left.
Furthermore, during the interview, I was told by one of the police officers that I was in violation of state law by having even a partially visible firearm in public.
When I attempted to explain to him that whereas it was not my intention to carry a visible weapon, Indiana is legally considered an "open carry" state. His response was less than I expected it to be.
And I quote...
"No, sir, this is very much a concealed carry state. This isn't some cowboy state."
At this point they return my ID's, and my now-unloaded handgun. I'm given instructions to not reload it until I'm off the property and to leave immediately. I comply.
I return to my friends' residence, drop him and the groceries off, and immediately proceed to the Mishawaka Police Station, a few blocks away.
When I arrive, I speak with a Officer Thomas to whom I explain the situation. He recalls hearing the call dispatched. We discuss the legality of what happened, and we agree that a visible firearm is not in violation of any laws, either in the State or local to Mishawaka. He's quite apologetic, which I'm rather relieved to hear. Everyone has been rather hostile with me up until this point.
He explains to me that the person I'd encountered in the store had dialed 911 and reported a man "brandishing a firearm and threatening others" on the premises. This was obviously not the case, as was determined when the police had arrived. At no point was my weapon even removed from it's holster, until the police disarmed me physically upon leaving the store.
In closing my conversation with Officer Thomas, he had suggested that I contact both his Police Chief, and the Indiana State Police.
Now, the purpose of this letter is for my own peace of mind, so that I might ask you some questions. I hope you can clarify things for me, and I thank you for any information you could provide.
1. Why would a uniformed officer inform me I was in violation of Indiana's laws regarding firearms, for having a visible weapon? If my understanding of the law is incorrect, I'd like to be set straight. It is my intention to stay within the boundaries of the law. I'm also a little uneasy about being threatened with arrest over this matter.
2. Why, at any point in time, were no attempts made to interview the gentleman who not only attempted to pass himself off as a police officer, but gave false information to a 911 dispatcher? This man's face, and the entirety of our encounter, has been recorded by the surveillance systems of the store, no doubt.
3. Why does it appear that the police are unaware of the gun laws?
Again, if you could provide me with some information, I'd be truly appreciative. I thank you for any help you could provide.
Mr. Robert M. Miller
<End of e-Mail>
I'm really hoping that you folks can see why I'm still a little peeved. I'm really thankful that the police came out to set me straight, though.
For all these years I honestly believed I was living in a "cowboy state" where it was illegal to impersonate a police officer. Thankfully, I know better now. /sarcasm