It is not a crime to open carry a firearm while getting the mail in Oregon, but one resident found himself being detained by a police officer for simply doing that.
Kevin Hall, 31, is a software developer and volunteer fire fighter. He was very aware of his rights when a police officer detained him for “reasonable suspicion” a couple years ago. But according to Gazettetimes.com he has won the law suit and was awarded $5,000 for his troubles:
He was walking the less than 200 feet to his house after retrieving his mail in the early afternoon on Oct. 26, 2011, when Corvallis Police Officer James Dodge pulled up, got out of his patrol car and approached him.
Hall, who wore a gun in a holster attached to his belt and a knife clipped in his front pocket, said he was prepared. He had memorized his legal rights concerning interactions with law enforcement and his rights to openly carry firearms. Normally, he also had with him an audio recorder and an iPod capable of video recording to ensure the honesty of law enforcement.
During the stop, which lasted only minutes, Officer Dodge questioned Hall, performed an exterior pat down to check for additional weapons and then checked with dispatch to see if Hall had warrants — using a name found on a piece of Hall’s mail. Hall then was allowed to go.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane issued an opinion in September that Dodge didn’t have the required reasonable suspicion to detain Hall.
Both sides agree, according to court documents, that when Hall noticed Dodge exit his patrol vehicle, he asked if he was being detained. The officer replied no, but said he’d like to speak to Hall. Hall ignored Dodge’s questions and asked again if he was being detained. That time, Dodge replied yes. Hall remained silent as Dodge patted him down and asked him questions such as where he lived and whether he had identification on him.
The officer was suspicious of Hall because he was carrying a firearm in a high crime area. Personally, we think that’s usually the kind of place you SHOULD carry a firearm, unless you want to be completely defenseless in an attack.
Because it was an unlawful stop, McShane wrote, Dodge also didn’t have the right to pat down Hall. Both actions, according to McShane, violated Hall’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Began with a complaint
Before filing a lawsuit, Hall first filed a complaint with the Corvallis Police Department.
“We did conduct the investigation internally,” Police Chief Jon Sassaman said. “Of course, we sometimes end up with differing opinions based on everybody’s recollection. We didn’t find that the officer did anything wrong. Unfortunately, the federal judge disagreed.”
The city, police department and insurance carrier determined that a settlement would be the cheaper route, he said.
“As a city, we have to decide what the economic threshold is for which we would continue to challenge the ruling, even if we feel the ruling is inaccurate,” he said.
‘A rights thing, not a gun thing’
When Hall moved to Corvallis from Los Angeles in June 2011, he openly carried a gun wherever he was legally allowed — to prove a point, to exercise his rights and to open up dialogue.
“For me, it’s always been more of a rights thing, not a gun thing,” he said. “When I open carry, the reason I do it is to remind people of their rights.”
Hall has a concealed weapons permit and he participates in competition shooting. His dad, sister and brother-in-law are all in law enforcement, he said.
In the four months he lived in Corvallis prior to the incident, he had only one other encounter with police while openly carrying, and it was consensual, he said.
Mostly, he said, people just did a double-take when he walked around town with his Glock .22 visible in its holster — although one time he had a good talk with two perturbed ladies who questioned him at the library.
He stopped, for the most part, openly packing heat after he filed the lawsuit.
“I stopped because my personal belief is, if you open carry, you have to be willing to say no to police and sometimes that results in being arrested and being detained,” he said. “Since I had one lawsuit going on, I didn’t want another one.”