"Packing Heat" - OC Lawsuit in GA

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Thread: "Packing Heat" - OC Lawsuit in GA

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    Senior Member Array mzmtg's Avatar
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    "Packing Heat" - OC Lawsuit in GA

    Metro Spirit: Richmond County - Packing heat

    Packing heat

    If you have a license, it’s not against the law to carry a gun. Even if you’re accompanied by a man wearing a sombrero.

    BY ERIC JOHNSON


    AUGUSTA, GA - In a settlement filed in District Court on Dec. 4, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office admitted violating an Augusta man’s Fourth Amendment rights by seizing and holding his firearm.

    The settlement brings closure to a bizarre case that is equal parts highbrow constitutional philosophy and lowbrow absurdity.

    According to information contained in the consent order, a Richmond County Sheriff’s deputy was making a routine patrol of the Kroger parking lot on Washington Road when he was waved down by a customer who indicated a man carrying a firearm was inside the store acting in a bizarre and obnoxious manner.

    This is where things go from “Perry Mason” to “Pee-Wee Herman.” Quoting from the report: “[the deputy] was informed that this individual was accompanied by another man wearing a sombrero and carrying a guitar.”

    Zach Mead, the man with the gun, vehemently denies the allegation.

    “It was a banjo,” he insists.

    That’s the thing about this case. It’s not normal.

    Zach Mead is not, in the strictest sense, normal. He’s military, yes, but he’s also a liberally tattooed free spirit who has friends who wear sombreros and play banjos in checkout aisles.

    He also openly carries a Beretta 92 Steel-I in a holster on his hip.

    Which is legal, by the way.

    Maybe it’s a matter of perception, or maybe it matters whether or not you’re the one wearing the holster, but Mead has a different take on the Kroger incident than the report.

    “I can understand why people might think we were kind of strange,” he says, “but it’s not against the law to be different.”

    He’s right, after all. It’s not a crime to be different, and if you’re a licensed gun owner, it’s not a crime to openly carry your gun in public, either.

    “Simply put, a police officer needs reasonable suspicion of a crime before he can detain someone, and merely possessing a handgun is not reasonable suspicion of a crime,” says Ed Stone, president of the gun rights group georgiacarry.org and co-counsel for Mead. “In this case, the encounter went beyond merely detaining Zachary Mead for having a handgun; the deputy in this case actually seized the handgun and took it with him.”

    Because most people, including some gun owners, are unaware that a Georgia firearms license (GFL) grants you the right to openly carry a firearm, a perception exists that the gun laws are ambiguous. Stone disagrees.

    “I don’t think it’s ambiguous at all,” he says. “You can carry a firearm openly or concealed in the State of Georgia with a firearms license. That’s very clear, and I think 99 percent of officers are perfectly clear on the subject.”

    Though now an attorney specializing in construction law, Stone himself was a police officer for 12 years.

    “We are experiencing a small problem with a small minority of officers around the State of Georgia,” he says. “Hopefully, these lawsuits will get the word out and clear that up for whatever officers may remain unclear on that.”

    Stone and georgiacarry.org made a name for themselves earlier this year when they took on Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s threat to arrest Georgia firearms license holders for lawfully carrying firearms in non-secure areas of the airport.

    “In this case, the most aggravating factor in our eyes was the fact that the gun was confiscated and kept for a long period of time, even when the plaintiff tried to get it back,” Stone says. “And that was after the officer knew that Zachary Mead had a firearms license and after the officer knew that Zachary Mead was a member of the United States military.”

    In Georgia, having a military ID gives you the same exceptions as a police officer, so Stone contends seizing Mead’s firearm is no different than seizing a firearm from a police officer.

    James Ellison, who handled the case for the sheriff’s office, sees it a little differently. Though he admits the deputy may have overstepped his authority, he thinks it was for good reason.

    Ellison maintains the officer thought he smelled alcohol on Mead’s breath. That, combined with reports of his odd behavior and the fact that he was purchasing alcohol, caused him to err on the side of caution and seize the gun.

    “I think the officer technically should not have done that, but I don’t think you can be too hard on the officer,” he says. “He’s thinking of the safety of the person carrying the gun and those about town.”

    To Mead, Stone and georgiacarry.org, however, this case is a Second Amendment issue wrapped up in a Fourth Amendment wrapper.

    The Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right against unreasonable search and seizure.

    “If police officers can forcibly detain people any time they see them with a firearm, then the Second Amendment would cease to exist,” Stone says. “How can you bear arms if every police officer who sees you can stop you and detain you?”

    By settling out of court, Ellison saves the county the embarrassment of a trial and, potentially, quite a lot of money.

    “We agreed to settle it because, technically, we felt the officer made the wrong call,” he says, pointing out that had Mead won even a token judgment from a jury, the county would have had to foot Mead’s attorney fees, which would have been considerable.

    Though the settlement awarded Mead $1,000 in damages and over $3,000 in attorney fees, Mead’s frustration with the way the situation was handled remains high, and he disputes the allegations that he’d been drinking.

    “That part about me drinking was totally untrue,” he says. “He [the deputy] made that up after the fact to try to cover his ass. Over the course of the whole thing, he never said anything about me smelling like alcohol, nor did he ask me if I’d been drinking. He never asked me.”

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  3. #2
    VIP Member Array Sticks's Avatar
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    I REALLY wish these people would quit settling. We need the police and public to get the message loud and clear.

    No need to sue the department into bankruptcy, just get a judgment, expenses, and the publicity.
    Sticks

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    A person who is incapable of independent thought; a person who is herd animal-like in behavior; one who cannot distinguish between right and wrong; a foolish person.
    See also Sheep

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    Senior Member Array rmodel65's Avatar
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    My brother has an incident of arrest here in GA, all for legally possessing a legal firearm. We will see where this goes. :(
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    In Georgia, having a military ID gives you the same exceptions as a police officer, so Stone contends seizing Mead’s firearm is no different than seizing a firearm from a police officer.
    I think they may be stretching it on this. I may be wrong, but I think the exception applys to a military issued weapon, not a privately owned weapon. If it applys to anyone with a military ID, that would not only be active duty military, but reserves, national guard and retirees as well.
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    It's clear that the officer made the wrong call. The whole thing could have been defused by returning the man's gun after admitting and apologizing for the error. Cops are not perfect, I don't see why they act as if they are.

    And if the cop actually lied about the alcohol on Mead's breath, then it's really bad. That would be a reflection on the officer's integrity. And his department's.

    Very well written article by Johnson, I might add.

    Finally, I notice the lawyer always gets priority in getting compensation...

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    Senior Member Array rmodel65's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by archer51 View Post
    I think they may be stretching it on this. I may be wrong, but I think the exception applys to a military issued weapon, not a privately owned weapon. If it applys to anyone with a military ID, that would not only be active duty military, but reserves, national guard and retirees as well.



    it is not stretching it one bit, the laws states : (3) Persons in the military service of the state or of the United States;

    This includes, US(active and reserve), GA National Guard and members of the GA defense force



    the code section doesn't mandate any specific weapons be used.
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    Senior Member Array Frogbones's Avatar
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    If you are a LEO and you represent the law, uphold the law, I think LEO's should be well informed of the laws and quized or the like. That they know and understand certain (mainly regarding the possesion of firearms) law..to me that is proactive..(most police culture is reactive) instead of people haveing rights trampled, inconvienenced do to the lack of understanding of laws...escpecially the ones regarding firearms.

    I'm not even near police material...but I've taken apon myself to know and understand the laws regarding handgun possesion...even though that won't matter when dealing with an officer who is confident that they think they know the law....and I end up arrested, weapon seized, wife upset..all cause that officer FAILED to understand the law regarding possesion of firearms.

    Thinking you know the law and actually knowing the law are two COMPLETELY different things.

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    Ex Member Array jahwarrior72's Avatar
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    this Mead fellow seems like a guy i'd hang out with. i appreciate absurdity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sticks View Post
    I REALLY wish these people would quit settling. We need the police and public to get the message loud and clear.

    No need to sue the department into bankruptcy, just get a judgment, expenses, and the publicity.
    +1000 I really want someone to take a state on and really hand them their butt for this kind of thing.
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    AUGUSTA, GA - In a settlement filed in District Court on Dec. 4, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office admitted violating an Augusta man’s Fourth Amendment rights by seizing and holding his firearm.
    There is the important part!

    Usually they try to avoid admitting any wrongdoing.
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    VIP Member Array Sticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Right Wing Wacko View Post
    There is the important part!

    Usually they try to avoid admitting any wrongdoing.
    4th amendment says nothing about the right to keep and bear arms. That one was violated first and foremost, and not even mentioned by the police, just the reporter.
    Sticks

    Grasseater // Grass~eat~er noun, often attributive \ˈgras-ē-tər\
    A person who is incapable of independent thought; a person who is herd animal-like in behavior; one who cannot distinguish between right and wrong; a foolish person.
    See also Sheep

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    Good ol' GeorgiaCarry.org. Membership is worth every penny. I invested money into the McCain Campaign which turned out to be a poor investment. I also invested money into Georgia Carry and everytime I read stories like this I get a little return on investment. Thanks GeorgiaCarry.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jahwarrior72 View Post
    this Mead fellow seems like a guy i'd hang out with. i appreciate absurdity.
    If you ever make it to Augusta from the raggedy edge hit me up. We like to have a good time here.

    To the people who wished we wouldn't have settled:

    There were extenuating circumstances that would've made going to trial end up with the same result.

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    VIP Member Array Sticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by devo1123 View Post
    If you ever make it to Augusta from the raggedy edge hit me up. We like to have a good time here.

    To the people who wished we wouldn't have settled:

    There were extenuating circumstances that would've made going to trial end up with the same result.
    Welcome to the forum.

    Are you under a non disclosure agreement under the settlement?

    If not, we would reeeealy like to hear the whole thing first person.
    Sticks

    Grasseater // Grass~eat~er noun, often attributive \ˈgras-ē-tər\
    A person who is incapable of independent thought; a person who is herd animal-like in behavior; one who cannot distinguish between right and wrong; a foolish person.
    See also Sheep

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    I always thought ignorance of the law was no excuse...doesn't that apply equally to LEO's?

    If there are extenuating circumstances...which to me means the defendant did do something wrong...then the case need to be settled with less paperwork. However, if the defendant was completely in the right, he should have continued the suit for a major impact on such 'ingorance'. That's the only time that those, who are supposed to be following the law, really grow from their experiences.
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