Video: Police officer threatens concealed-carry driver with execution, beating; Update: Officer relieved of duty, under investigation

posted at 10:05 am on July 21, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Ohio’s concealed-carry law requires anyone stopped by police to immediately notify the officer if they are armed.  Failure to do so is a first-class misdemeanor that can result in a six-month jail term and a thousand-dollar fine, as well as losing the license to carry.  It’s usually not considered a death penalty offense, unless one gets pulled over in Beachwood Canton, Ohio, in a case highlighted today by Ohioans for Concealed Carry:

William pulled his car to the side of the road to let out two passengers, but only the female occupant managed to exit before the police pulled up and began screaming at all three parties. “Stay in that car, I’m not going to mess around,” screamed one of the officers at the two people attempting to exit the vehicle. The driver and concealed handgun licensee, William, remained seated in his vehicle when an officer entered the rear of the vehicle.

William stated, “I have a concealed carry, and…” when he was abruptly told to shut up. Dash camera video footage shows the driver turning his head, and his voice can be heard, but the words are inaudible. A few minutes passed while the officer continued to berate the two passengers. He proceeded to the driver’s side and tries to open the door but is delayed by a seat belt. William states “I have a conceal…” and the officer demands that he better tell the truth or else! This interruption causes William to “tell the truth” and his attempt to notify is interrupted. William exited the vehicle with his driver’s license in the same hand as his concealed handgun license. He held it up for the officer to see, and the officer said, “Why are you having that?” This gave William the opportunity to say, “I have a CCW, and…” The officer then said, “Do you have a gun?” William answered yes, causing the officer to grab it from William’s waist.

At this point, William was handcuffed and put into the police cruiser. The officer then started to berate William, stating: “I should blast you in the mouth right now … I’m close to caving in your head.” and “you’re just a stupid human being!”

The officer continued to berate the driver after arresting him and locking him in the back seat, offering such bon mots as “people like you don’t deserve to @#$%#$ move throughout public. Period!” Just after the discovery of the licensed firearm (and caught on tape), the same officer threatened to “put lumps” on a woman who had been outside of the car if he saw her in the area again. This seems to be an officer intent on delivering street justice more than law enforcement, and one with an anger management problem.

To be fair, even the concealed-carry community in Ohio acknowledges that they have a problem getting licensees to properly inform police during stops. Four years ago, Chad Baus wrote about the issue for the Buckeye Firearms Association, having heard about it from multiple law-enforcement sources. In Minnesota, it’s more of a practice than a requirement (there is no explicit legal language on the subject), but it’s a damned good idea. This past winter I was in a car accident outside of my house, and I made sure that the officer knew immediately of my status. He checked my license but otherwise treated it as no big deal — as it was in this instance. However, police officers are understandably sensitive about being aware of all firearms present at traffic stops, for very good reasons, most of which have to do with gravemarkers of their fellow officers who ended up getting surprised by them.  It’s not for nothing that Ohio included that requirement.

In this case, though, a fair viewing of the videotape shows that the driver did attempt to notify the officers on more than one occasion before stepping out of the car, and tried to do so when the officer approached his window several minutes into the stop.  He may not have done it very well, but it certainly doesn’t appear that the driver intended to keep the information from the police.  The officer told him repeatedly to keep his mouth shut while they checked out the other two people involved in the stop.  Threatening death and/or a beating to a man who tried repeatedly and finally succeeded in fulfilling his legal obligation to inform them is irrational and should be illegal.  The driver faces failure-to-inform charges, for which OhioCCW is raising funds, but the court and the city should be taking a look into the actions of this officer during the entire stop.

Addendum: My late friend Joel Rosenberg literally wrote the book on carry licensing in Minnesota, The Carry Book: Minnesota Edition.  Unfortunately Joel passed away before he could complete an edition that looked at the issue nationally, but even if you’re not in Minnesota, there is a ton of good advice for those who want to pursue carry licenses and handle firearms.  My particular favorite chapter of the book is titled, “Cowardice 201: A PhD Seminar in Advanced Staying Out of Trouble,” in which Joel reveals that the true secret of karate is to run faster than everyone else.  Self-defense starts with keeping out of situations where you will likely find yourself threatened.  Joel’s book is a sobering read, literally and figuratively.

Update: The website said Beachwood, but the videotape does say Canton.  Perhaps the driver was from Beachwood.  I’ve corrected the first paragraph to match the video.

Update II: The Canton Police Department has posted a statement today to its Facebook page:

I want to assure our citizens that the behavior, as demonstrated in this video, is wholly unacceptable and in complete contradiction to the professional standards we demand of our officers. As such, appropriate steps were placed in motion as dictated by our standards, policies and contractual obligations. Those steps included: The officer immediately being relieved of all duty. The incident has been referred to the Internal Affairs Bureau for what will be a complete and thorough investigation. As bad as the video indicates our officer’s actions were, there is a due process procedure to follow. That process is designed in the best interest of both our employees and the citizens at large. That process will be followed in this case as in all others. Anyone shown to be in violation of our rules and regulations will be help appropriately responsible as dictated by all the facts. ~Chief Dean McKimm

One e-mailer called the Canton PD and spoke to a lieutenant, whom the e-mailer described as “embarrassed” by the story and “truly remorseful.”  Some of the CPD’s commenters on the Facebook page object to the officer being essentially suspended with pay, but police get due process as well, and the union agreement with the city almost certainly has language governing that process.  It’s good to see that the Canton PD is taking this seriously.  Now, will the city drop the charges against the driver and restore his license status?

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