A while back I came across a disturbing video from Belton, Texas.  Then just a few days ago, a reader sent me a link about another disturbing video from Temple, Texas.  Both cities are in Bell County, Texas, and share a common border.  Let’s discuss the videos one by one.

Belton Police threaten citizen with illegal arrest.

Officer J. Thomas is talking to a concealed handgun license holder on February 5, 2013 at the Bell County Office of Emergency Management.  The building has a no concealed handgun sign at the door, but the sign does not comply with Texas law.  First, the sign does not properly state the notice as required by Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 30.06.  Second, the statute prohibits a governmental body from prohibiting concealed carry in its buildings, Id. § 30.06(e), with limited exceptions such as jails, etc.

In any event, the citizen did not carry into the building, erring on the side of caution.  Towards the end of the discussion, Officer Thomas demands the citizen’s identification and when the citizen correctly points out that he does not have to provide identification (at 3:20 in the video).  The officer clearly does not understand the law for failure to identify, Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 38.02.  The elements of the offense are simple:

  • A person who is arrested refuses to provide his name, address, and date of birth to a peace officer.
  • A person who is arrested provides a false or fictitious name, address, and date of birth to a peace officer.
  • A person who is lawfully detained provides a false or fictitious name, address, and date of birth to a peace officer.

It is not an offense to refuse to provide identification when lawfully detained.  See St. George v. State, 197 S.W.3d 806 (Tex. App.–Fort Worth 2006), aff’d, 237 S.W.3d 720 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007); see also Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47 (1979) (police may not stop and demand identification without reasonable suspicion of a crime).  In addition, there is no criminal penalty for refusing to provide a concealed handgun license when not carrying.  There used to be, but the legislature removed the criminal penalty.

At 3:45, Officer Thomas stated that he was a Texas peace officer and requested identification, and that was all he needed to do in the State of Texas.  This is an incorrect statement, and could subject the officer to civil claims under 42 U.S.C § 1983 for violation of civil rights, as well as criminal charges of official oppression, Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 39.03.

A complaint was filed on March 6, 2013, and the citizen received a letter on April 13, 2013 stating that the officer broke no law.  This is obviously incorrect.  The Chief of Police of the Belton Police Department is Gene Ellis (police@beltontexas.gov, 254-933-5840) and the City Manager is Sam Listi (slisti@beltontexas.gov, 254-933-5818).

Temple Police arrest decorated veteran for “rudely” carrying a rifle.

Army Master Sergeant C.J. Grisham was arrested for openly carrying a rifle while hiking down a country road with his 15-year old son.  Basically the video and the linked articles tell the story better than I could, so my comments will be brief.  At about 0:45 in the video, MSG Grisham tells the officer that he will do everything that the officer asks him to do, right after the officer has said that he needs to check and see if Grisham is entitled to carry the rifle.  This is another version of the “I don’t know you, you might be a felon” line that courts have already held is unlawful.  See United States v. Black, 707 F.3d 531 (4th Cir. 2013) (holding that where firearms carry is legal, an officer must have reasonable suspicion of a crime to detain an individual, and that assuming a person is a felon is not the default view).

The officer says that he can stop anyone for “rudely displaying” a gun.  Unfortunately, this is not correct.  In Texas, it is legal to carry a rifle or shotgun openly.  A person may not carry the firearm in a manner “calculated to alarm.”  Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 42.01(a)(8). The fact that someone called the police is not sufficient to show that it was a manner calculated to alarm, Grieve v. State, Nos. 05–07–00156–CR, 05–07–00157–CR, 2008 Tex. App. LEXIS 3756, 2008 WL 2152890 (Tex. App.–Dallas 2008, no pet.) (not designated for publication).

One of the key statements comes at 3:25, when the police sergeant states that “they don’t care what the law is.”  At another point, the sergeant says that police are exempt from the law.

Even more egregious is the fact that the police would not let the 15-year old son out of the police car until he answered all of their questions, after Grisham told his son not to talk to the officers.

The Chief of Police is Gary Smith (police@ci.temple.tx.us, 254-298-5500) and the City Manager is David Blackburn (dblackburn@ci.temple.tx.us, 254-298-5600).

In addition, other locals officials are:

  • County Attorney: James E. Nichols, county.attorney@co.bell.tx.us, 254-933-5135.
  • Chamber of Commerce President:  Stephanie O’Banion, stephanie@beltonchamber.com, 254-939-3551.

According to KCEN-TV, the Temple Police are no longer commenting on the matter.

HT:  andrew