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The Hard Right Over the Easy Wrong
Growing up, I was taught in life to always choose the hard right over the easy wrong. I was also taught patriotism, love of country, and respect for those that put their lives on the line both at home and abroad. I and my family always make it a point to walk up to police officers we encounter at restaurants or in the public and shake their hands, thanking them for their service. So, before I get fully into the story, I think it’s important that I note that I don’t believe all police officers operate in the fashion in which I was treated recently. I don’t think that there is necessarily an anti-gun agenda in Temple, Texas (although, I’ve heard from many people with similar stories of being illegally disarmed). And I don’t blame the entire Temple Police force for the actions of the few I encountered on March 16th. I blame the chain of command of Officer Steve Ermis – the arresting officer, the Sergeant on the scene, and the Chief of Police.
Contrary to some opinions, I didn’t set out to make a statement that day. If I wanted to make a statement, I would have marched through downtown Temple or a busy street with my AR (which is also legal). Instead, we chose a hiking route that was completely and totally in the country. In fact, after five miles of hiking before I was stopped, the only houses I passed were those belonging to my aunts and uncles. There was a point that I crossed a 4-lane highway, but traffic was light at that time of day. My intention on March 16th was to complete a 10-mile hike and enjoy some quality time with my son. Nothing more.
I also want to address some of the conspiracy stories out there as I see things. I do NOT think this is a coordinated assault on the Second Amendment. There were no orders from Obama or DHS. This isn’t about disarming veterans with PTSD. As far as I know, the mayor didn’t send cops after me following my speech to the City Council and his paltry response to my 2nd Amendment resolution.
However, I do think there is a great deal of ignorance throughout the Temple Police Department about the gun laws in this city and state. I had a conversation with the Chief of Police after my council speech and had to explain to him why I wasn’t breaking the law when I attended the meeting with a concealed firearm. He didn’t call me to give me a hard time, but wanted to make sure I knew I couldn’t carry a concealed firearm to a public meeting. However, the law is also clear that CHL holders may carry a concealed weapon to a public meeting if there is not a sign barring them on the doors. There was not. Yet, slightly more than a week after my speech to the council and my discussion with the mayor and chief of police, I was placed in cuffs on trumped up charges and my guns and CHL were taken from me. Now, I can’t take a concealed handgun ANYWHERE.
Some people ask why I had to carry an AR-15 with me that day instead of a hunting rifle or something else. The simple answer is, “it’s none of your business what I choose to carry lawfully.” But, I realize some people wear really tight panties and want a less-confrontational answer. My AR is my hunting rifle. I hunt with an AR and I hunt with an SKS. But, let me be clear that the 2nd Amendment wasn’t written for hunters, so this is really another moot point. All my rifles are either .22LR, .223, 5.56, or 7.62×39 caliber. Even my .22LR is an AR-style rifle. I own ARs, AKs, SKS, and variants of each. I’ve been in the Army 18 years and was trained how to fire the M4 and M16 series of rifles. When I made the conscious decision to start buying guns, I intentionally chose to purchase guns that I was comfortable with and trained on shooting.
I think we are living in a post-Constitutional society. There is a large segment of the populace that believes that gun owners should be treated like lepers and kept out of sight. The problem doesn’t start with the way the police respond to individuals lawfully carrying firearms. The problem starts with the people that call 911 and complain about merely SEEING guns. As a society, we have been conditioned to just automatically assume that someone with a gun is up to no good. Our nation’s schools instill this fear of firearms at a young age. Then our colleges further indoctrinate our youth to oppose gun rights. Since FDR, gun rights have been under fire. The passage of the National Firearms Act was the cornerstone of the building blocks of further gun control. With the passage of each law, from the 1968 Gun Control Act to the 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and assault weapons ban to current legislation working its way through the halls of Congress to restrict what guns look like or the number of rounds they can carry, the 2nd Amendment is further eroded one step at a time. Each time we are told that our guns are safe; that they’re only targeting “some” firearms. The law abiding citizen becomes less and less safe while the job security of criminals becomes more and more secure.
But, I digress.
On March 16th, my son and I began what would be the most interesting hike of our lives. The third requirement for earning the rank of Eagle Scout states:
Earn a total of 21 merit badges (10 more than you already have), including the following:
Citizenship in the Community
Citizenship in the Nation
Citizenship in the World
Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
My son has earned 28 merit badges, but was missing the swimming/hiking/cycling badge. After discussing which one he wanted to do, he chose hiking. In order to earn the hiking merit badge, Chris had to plan five 10-mile hikes and two 25-mile hikes, all on different days. The final requirement for earning the hiking merit badge states, “After each of the hikes (or during each hike if on one continuous “trek”) in requirements 5 and 6, write a short report of your experience. Give dates and descriptions of routes covered, the weather, and interesting things you saw. Share this report with your merit badge counselor.” Chris and I brought cameras with us to document the interesting things that would have happened or we saw while hiking.
Chris chose to plan routes that began and ended at our house, which is out in the countryside. I live on a family farm where the nearest neighbor (that isn’t family) is about a half mile away. He also chose less-traveled roads along the route because we always bring a gun with us when we venture far from the house on foot. Out here in the pastures, we have cougars, feral hogs, and coyotes. Not that I need a reason to legally carry a rifle, I wasn’t about to be unarmed in case we came across aggressive wildlife, whether on four legs or two.
“But, CJ, why do you need a rifle AND a pistol?” Again, none of your business. But, I always carry a concealed weapon on me. For me, it’s like putting on my socks. I put on my pants, tighten my belt, and tuck in my holster. Anyone that know anything about guns knows that pistols aren’t long-range, defensive weapons; rifles are. Rifles are also more accurate and easily aimed, especially my ARs.
“But, CJ, why did you have to walk around with an assault rifle? Don’t you understand that after Sandy Hook and Aurora that people are scared of these guns?” First of all, I don’t own a single assault weapon. I have a good number of weapons, but not a single one of them is an assault weapon. For you liberal gun grabbers out there, this next statement is going to offend you. Just remember that being offended is a CHOICE, not something someone can force upon you.
I DON’T CARE IF YOU ARE OFFENDED, SCARED, OR FRIGHTENED WHEN YOU SEE A SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLE LIKE MINE. Your lack of ability to control your emotions is not my problem. The fact that a small fraction of gun owners commit crimes does not mean that I have to alter my lawful keeping and bearing of firearms. If anything, those shootings should make you feel more comfortable seeing lawful gun owners walking around to warn criminals that their actions will be countered quickly. Instead, society has been wussified into submission and cowardice. The mere SIGHT of a gun is now cause for diverting valuable police resources to respond to such nonsense calls.
Why aren’t we training our call centers to question people who call in people with guns?
911: 911, what is your emergency?
Caller: There’s a man walking down the road with a gun.
911: Is he pointing it at anyone or carrying it in a threatening manner?
Caller: No, but it’s an “assault weapon.”
911: The type of rifle is irrelevant. Is he threatening anyone or pointing in a threatening manner?
Caller: No, but I don’t think people should be walking down the road with a rifle like that.
911: Ma’am, this line is for emergencies only. Citizens have the right to walk down the road with a rifle if they aren’t threatening anyone. If you see him do anything threatening besides just walking down the road, then call us.
Caller: But, he’s got a gun!
911: Have a nice day. *click
Instead of hassling law-abiding gun owners, how about we start hassling morons that are afraid of guns?! Or, if law enforcement doesn’t want to take a chance ignoring moronic phone calls, I understand at least checking out the call. However, when you drive up and see that a man is simply walking down a road with his son in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, there is no need to succumb to morons that called. It should be obvious to any educated person that no laws are being broken and the citizen doesn’t need to be harassed. So, you get on your radio and report in whatever code means “unfounded.”
That didn’t happen. Instead, the officer pulled up behind and asked us to approach him. As he said that, he was already getting out of his car. As he approached my son and me he didn’t have his gun drawn or lights on which would have indicated he felt threatened. As we approached the officer, I ensured that I kept my hands off my rifle. The officer approached us calmly and asked us what we were doing. Whenever I have an encounter with a police officer, my attitude always matches theirs. If they are uppity from the get-go, I am uppity from the get-go. If they are kind, I am kind. I don’t work for the police; they work for me. So, I don’t tolerate rude police officers. No one should tolerate ANY government official acting in their capacity rudely, even Soldiers.
I replied to Officer Ermis that we were on a hike for my son’s merit badge. He then asked me what I was doing with the rifle. I politely responded, “does it matter? Have I broken a law?”
It’s important at this point to address this point, because it’s a point of contention for many people. There is a lot of case law that recognizes that citizens are not required to answer any questions if they are not accused of a crime. It is your right if you are not accused of a crime to just walk away from the officer and refuse to comply until he suggests that you are suspected of having committed, in the process of committing, or may be about to commit a crime.
One such case is Terry v. Ohio, which I’ve actually had many law enforcement officers incorrectly state that this case gives them permission to stop and search anyone for guns. Here is actually what the judgment said in the justices own words (emphasis mine):
We merely hold today that, where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, where, in the course of investigating this behavior, he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries, and where nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own or others’ safety, he is entitled for the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault him.
There is case law after case law both at lower courts and decided by the Supreme Court that make it clear citizens aren’t required to answer questions or submit to searches or seizures unless they are suspected of a crime. It is illegal for an officer to detain, arrest, search or seize property just to FIND OUT if a crime was committed. My refusal to answer questions when I’m not suspected of committing a crime in no way means that I don’t support law enforcement. It means I support my individual liberties and civil rights. No police officer needs to feel offended if I simply don’t want to have a chat on an official basis. I’m more than happy to engage them when I’m not the subject of a call, but when I’m the person being investigated – whether for a traffic stop or what happened last month – I prefer to keep the encounters brief and go about my business.
At this point, the officer decides he is going to grab my rifle without any indication, warning, or cause. At no time prior to grabbing my rifle did he asked me to surrender it, tell me he was going to seize it, or ask me to place it on the ground. He simply grabbed my weapon – something I didn’t expect to happen. Keep in mind that my rifle was slung in front of me and attached. My immediate reaction was to grab my rifle back and take a step back. I didn’t place my hands on or near the trigger. I did not aim the rifle at anyone. I kept the rifle slung and pointed at the ground.
Incredulous that he had done this, I asked what he thought he was doing and told him he wasn’t going to disarm me without cause. Officer Ermis then pulled his service pistol on me, ordered me to remove my hands from the weapon and move to his car. I did exactly as he said. As I approached the front of his car, Ermis came up behind me and slammed me into the hood. When he did this, the camera I had strapped to my Camelback fell in front me, reminding me that I had a camera. At that point, I turned on the camera.
The situation was calm until the officer escalated an otherwise peaceful stop. He could learn a thing or two from Klamath Falls Police Officer Mike Noor.
The reasonable suspicion in this video is that MP5 rifles are commonly automatic in police forces. The debate over why police departments have automatic weapons that citizens can’t is for another day. Personally, I think that an officer could easily call any military-style firearm potentially automatic, but what is important about this video is how the officer approached the individual and explained what he was doing to prevent problems.
The rest of what happened is already on video and I’ll share it at the end of this post. I was initially arrested and booked for “resisting arrest.” A few weeks later, the charges were downgraded to “interference with public duties.” This offense falls under Texas Penal Code Section 38.15 which states, “A person commits an offense if the person with criminal negligence interrupts, disrupts, impedes, or otherwise interferes with…a peace officer while the peace officer is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law…” (emphasis mine)
I highlighted two areas there. The first is that I was required to exhibit “criminal negligence” to commit this crime. The question becomes what was done criminally. The second part is the most important because it hearkens back to what I said about reasonable suspicion or probably cause. Does the police officer have the authority to disarm a citizen that isn’t suspected of committing a crime, isn’t threatening the safety of the officer or the public, and is legally exercising his rights to carry under the law? I’m not a lawyer, but I think the answer to that is no. So, if the officer is acting without authority, there cannot be criminal negligence. It is the DUTY of the citizen to resist the illegal and unauthorized actions of any public official. If I saw a cop beating or raping a woman, would I be charged the same if I interfered? I don’t think so.
It would have been easy just to stand there and allow the officer to take my weapons without cause, warrant or suspicion of a crime being committed. I would have been there for probably no more than 5 minutes. However, in order to gain the convenience of going about my business I would have had to voluntarily surrender precious rights to the officer. I am never willing to surrender any rights. Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” I also believe that a right not exercised and defended is a right lost or soon to be lost.
To the sheep among us, this may seem like a trivial matter. Their time is important to them and arguing or opposing the micro-tyranny is just too much of a hassle. However, I respect police officers enough to remind them of their oath to support and defend the Constitution and respect my rights recognized therein.
Because of the nature of my arrest and what my son was forced to witness at the hands of these officers, we are fighting not only the charges against us but will be filing a civil lawsuit against the officers, Temple Police Department, and City of Temple. Had the officers not intentionally filed false reports in an effort to cover their asses, I may not be so resolute in my conviction to seek justice – and their jobs. I can’t help but wonder where I would be had I not been able to record that encounter. I think about how many people have been victimized by these officers as a result of filing false incident reports.
When you can’t trust the police department to do the right thing when you have them on record, how can you trust them to do the right thing when they think no one is watching? While I was in jail, there was a steady stream of “criminals” that were being checked in. It was a never-ending congo line of suspects. There were young girls, old ladies in wheelchairs, and what appeared to me to be businessmen. How many of them were in on trumped up charges and can’t afford to hold the police accountable? When the case is tried on merely the cop’s word against the suspect’s word, the cop will always win.
For this reason, I now carry a camera EVERYWHERE I go. Every encounter I have with police, no matter how trivial will be recorded. I don’t trust this police department not to target me for embarrassing them with their own actions. I don’t trust them to have my best interests at heart. How can any citizen of Temple trust these officers? They can’t. As a matter of fact, if I were the Chief of Police, I would go back and scrutinize every single report Ermis and Minnicks have ever filed and contact those that were arrested or read the case reports and trial notes. Every single report should now be suspect as fraudulent and manufactured. In the meantime, these officers should be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of this case and fired if it rules in my favor.
Before I finish my post, I want to reiterate that the police at large are not the enemy. I know many great cops that, like me, value and exercise their oaths. This is not an indictment on them and I will NOT allow any comments on this post that are disrespectful to the profession. I will not allow any comments that call for physical injury or death. That is unacceptable and not my intention here.
As you can see, my family is very well trained and versed on the use and safety of guns from my youngest to oldest child. People ask me if I regret any part of what happened or if I would do anything differently. Yes. Next time, I’ll wear my reflective belt. No harm can come to any man wearing his reflective belt.
I will provide more updates as I have them as we work to have these fraudulent charges dismissed. If you are here because Michael Yon sent you, use the search bar above and do a site search for “Michael Yon” (or click here). All his lies are laid out with proof and sourcing.
Forgive any spelling or grammatical mistakes. I will edit in the morning. It’s late and I want to get this up. Since you’ve made it far, please read about SSG Nate Sampson. He was also illegally disarmed and arrested on trumped up charges and his case was recently thrown out.