No, this post isn’t about me. Hang with me through some boring backstory before I get to the meat of this post.
Brown v. Texas was a landmark case for the 4th Amendment. The amendment reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In this case, Brown is charged with violating Texas Penal Code, Title 8, Section 38.02, to whit, “A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.”
The key is that in order to comply with this order a person must be lawfully arrested. In order to be lawfully arrested, that person must be suspected of having committed a crime. To be suspected of having committed a crime an officer must either personally witness said crime or have reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime was committed.
The 4th Amendment is a beautiful thing – and one that is slowly being eroded through ignorance by the people and abuse of authority by law enforcement personnel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not casting a wide net and I fully understand that there are many good police officers dedicated to the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the laws and ordinances of their respective jurisdiction. As an Army Special Agent, I’ve had the privilege of working closely with these professional officers at the state and federal level. So, as I continue, please that in mind that I only refer to those that wear the uniform 9-5 (or whatever shift) and then do nothing during their free time to learn the laws they are called upon to enforce
Slightly more than a year ago, SSG Nate Sampson (I’ll refer to him as Nate from here on out) was illegally arrested and his legally carried firearm confiscated because a Killeen Police Department officer didn’t know the law and refused to listen to Nate when he quoted it to them.
On March 30, 2012, SSG Sampson’s then-girlfriend (now wife) was rushed to the hospital after experiencing adverse reactions to alcohol and a headache medicine she took. Her blood pressure shot up to dangerous levels and she became dizzy and lethargic. They called an ambulance and she was transported to Metroplex Hospital in Killeen. SSG Sampson later went to visit her in the hospital. That’s when the trouble started.
SSG Sampson was his unit’s appointed privately owned weapons liaison for the battalion. He knows Texas firearm laws quite well and is well-versed on the legalities of purchasing, selling, owning, possessing, storing, and carrying firearms. He can practically recite the exact pages on which certain laws are contained, especially concealed handgun laws.
As he always does when he leaves the house, Nate left home with a legally concealed firearm. In Texas, we do not have an open carry law for pistols…yet. We could, if liberal, gun control supporter Speaker of the House Joe Straus and liberal Representative Joseph Pickett would move these bills out of committee (yes, I know they’re both Republicans). Since we don’t have open carry laws for pistols, we are forced either to openly carry rifles everywhere we go (except where prohibited) or request permission from the state to exercise our rights to defend ourselves by applying for a concealed handgun license (CHL).
The process for applying for a CHL in Texas is a somewhat lengthy one. Because of the difficulty in obtaining a TX CHL, most officers recognize that these people are not a threat to anyone. According to the latest statistics, only .18% of CHL holders in Texas are convicted of crimes – any crimes. Much fewer than that are violent crimes or crimes involving firearms. To get a resident CHL, Texans must meet the following eligibility requirements:
– be a citizen of Texas
– be at least 21 years old
– not be convicted of a felony
– not be charged with or a fugitive from justice for a felony or Class A or B misdemeanor
– not be convicted of a class a or b misdemeanor withing the past 5 years
– can’t be dependent on drugs or alcohol
– be otherwise qualified under federal and state firearm laws to possess a firearm
– must not be delinquent in child support payments (why this negates someone from getting a CHL is beyond me and violates the 2nd Amendment in my view)
– must not be delinquent in paying of taxes (again, not sure the constitutionality of this)
– must not have a protective or restraining order against them
– must be of sound mind (in other words, not a mental patient)
Once those pre-requisites are met, applicants must complete an application that includes fingerprints, photo, copy of birth certificate, proof of residency, and pass both a written and shooting proficiency test with a satisfactory score. There is also a mandatory 10-hour training class and $140 fee required to exercise your constitutional right to keep and bear arms. On a side note, isn’t it funny that everyone complains about requiring identification to exercise the right to vote, but to exercise our 2nd amendment rights we must pay our own version of a poll tax?
The CHL “bible” can be found in section 46.035 of the Texas Penal Code. It describes in detail the places that license holders may and may not take their firearms.
(b) A license holder commits an of fense if the license holder
intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries a handgun under the
authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, regardless of
whether the handgun is concealed, on or about the license holder’s
(1) on the premises of a business that has a permit or license issued
under Chapter 25, 28, 32, 69, or 74, Alcoholic Beverage Code, if the
business derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale or service
of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption, as determined by
the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission under Section 104.06,
Alcoholic Beverage Code;
(2) on the premises where a high school, collegiate, or professional
sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place, unless the license
holder is a participant in the event and a handgun is used in the event;
(3) on the premises of a correctional facility;
(4) on the premises of a hospital licensed under Chapter 241, Health
and Safety Code, or on the premises of a nursing home licensed under
Chapter 242, Health and Safety Code, unless the license holder has
written authorization of the hospital or nursing home administration, as
(5) in an amusement park; or
(6) on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established
place of religious worship.
(c) A license holder commits an offense if the license holder
intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries a handgun under the
authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, regardless
of whether the handgun is concealed, at any meeting of a governmental entity.
Nate was originally charged with violating 46.035, paragraph (b)(4), which bars a CHL holder from carrying a firearm “on the premises of a hospital.” When the Killeen Police Department Officers approached Nate and asked him to follow them, he asked what he had done wrong while complying with their request. They eventually told him that carrying a concealed handgun into a hospital was against the law and placed him under arrest.
Knowing the exact language of the law and how to cite it, Nate asked the officers to look it up on his smartphone. The officers refused and once they got outside, he was frisked, disarmed, handcuffed and taken to jail. What the officers refused to listen to was that another subparagraph further down Section 46.035 stated he was well within his rights to carry his $2,000 Springfield .45 1911 pistol. Subparagraph (i) states, “Subsections (b)(4), (b)(5), (b)(6), and (c) do not apply if the actor was not given effective notice under Section 30.06.” Section 30.06 of the Texas Penal Code states:
“Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by holder of license to carry a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (concealed handgun law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun”; or
(B) a sign posted on the property that:
(i) includes the language described by Paragraph (A) in both English and Spanish;
(ii) appears in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height; and
(iii) is displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.
The hospital had no such notice on any of its doors. And if it had, the sign would have violated paragraph (B)(iii) of Section 30.06. When Nate was released on bond, he went back to the hospital and made sure to take dated photos of the doors where the signs were required to be. There edge none.
Nate was later offered and rightfully rejected a plea offer to a lesser charge that would have required him to pay a $100 fine, court costs and forfeit his weapon.
“That’s a $2,000 gun that was a gift from my wife after my last combat tour,” Nate said. “I’m not giving that up.”
I wouldn’t either. With the trial date looming within days, prosecutor Ken Kalafut decided to throw in another charge of being inotoxicated. Nine months after the March 30, 2012, incident, prosecutors were trying to save face and a doomed case by inventing charges never before mentioned. During his arrest there was never any indication that he was suspected of being intoxicated and no tests or field sobriety procedures were implemented.
In a statement to the Temple Daily Telegram, Kalafut said that the additional charge “strengthens our case.” Potential jurors could choose between either charge to convict Sampson, if, based on evidence, they believe one or the other is true, he said.
This seems to the modus operandi of the legal system in Bell County. Officers run around shoving their badge in people’s faces and arresting them on bogus charges without knowing the law attendant to the stop. It seems clear that the only goal is to disarm law-abiding citizens and then hope they agree to lesser charges that result in confiscation of their privately owned firearms. There is an overt effort, it seems, to steal hard-earned money from a community largely based on the military population without checks or balances on their schemes to defraud its people and continue to finance its oppressive practices. It’s not just the Killeen Police Department guilty of this either.
But, Nate knew his rights and he wasn’t going to be bullied by a system that treats citizens like common street thugs and then attempts to get them to surrender in the face of overwhelming pressure and abuse of authority. The police officers around Fort Hood know that military commanders do not like their troops being in trouble and the common response from the chain of command is to pressure the Soldier to admit he made a mistake without even knowing the facts of the case. It’s a case of guilty until proven innocent by Fort Hood leaders. This provides officers with cover when they screw up.
Case in point, before Nate even made it into a courtroom his command relieved him of his responsibilities as the battalion’s privately owned weapons liaison. He was administratively flagged, which meant he was not authorized promotions, awards, schooling or other positive actions until the case is resolved. His CHL was suspended and turned into DPS officials in Austin. For nearly a year, he was unable to defend himself out in public. He was viewed as a criminal and the very foundation of our legal system that assumes innocence until guilt is proven. He was stuck in jail with druggies, rapists, drunkards, and probably other innocent people and treated like dirt by the jail officials.
Over the course of the year, this man who’s wife had just had a baby would have to pay thousands of dollars to an attorney to get charges dropped for something he never did. None of that money was returned to him or reimbursed by the state. There was no additional training required of the officers that illegally arrested him due to ignorance of the law. And instead of recognizing that Nate didn’t threaten anyone in the hospital and would have actually served as a deterrent to someone walking into the hospital with ill-intent, the hospital instead decided to disarm everyone walking into their building by putting up the required signs. The charges were dropped and everyone was just expected to carry on as if nothing happened. Officers went about their days without so much as a shoulder shrug that they had violated the civil rights of an American Soldier.
There’s this belief that Texas is a gun-friendly state. Legally speaking, that’s not far from the truth. We are allowed to open carry our rifles and shotguns pretty much anywhere as long as we don’t carry them in a harrassing or threatening way. For the most part, CHL is a “shall issue” state provided the requirements are met. There is no bureaucrat with the power to arbitrarily decide whether or not a Texan NEEDS a license to carry a firearm.
However, the reality is that even though Texas as a state is a gun-friendly state, local police departments and government entities have done everything in their power to harass those trying to exercise those rights. Officers are uneducated about the laws they are required to enforce. When advised of the laws, they are unwilling to even entertain whether or not they may be violating a citizen’s civil rights. Nate gave paragraph and line number of the law to the officer and even offered to show the law to him, but the officer was unmoved. He had no interest in having his authority dictated to him by a lowly peasant.
“I, _______________________, do solemnly swear (or affirm),
that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of
___________________ of the State of Texas, and will to the best of
my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws
of the United States and of this State, so help me God.”
Is an officer really “to the best of his ability” preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution and laws of the United States and Texas when he refuses to take a moment to ensure that the information being given to them by a CHL holder is accurate before potentially ruining his career, putting his character into question, stealing his money, and adding extreme stresses to the life of an active duty Soldier? It wouldn’t have taken but a minute or two to confirm that Nate was well within his rights.
Nate is a man that had deployed to Iraq three times to serve his country. He has fought and sacrificed to support and defend that same Constitution the officer was bound to support. And how does a city right outside the largest military base in the free world treat that sacrifice; by tossing him in jail on a bunch of ignorant charges and forgetting about him. Instead of doing the right thing and throwing out the charges immediately, the prosecutors instead continued to harass an honest, hard working, American patriot. In an effort to get him to cop to lesser charges, they invented other charges they thought he’d agreed to. Knowing that in order to possess a CHL in Texas one has to be nearly blemish free and not a threat to anyone, the officer and the prosecutors should have used better judgment.
Unfortunately, Nate Sampson’s case isn’t the only one in Texas. Not only are other Soldiers being illegally arrested, disarmed, and charged with bogus crimes but so is the general populace. There is a general distrust of anyone that exercises his or her right to own firearms by those in positions of authority.
Rights are violated and citizens disarmed under the guise of “officer safety.” With a little research, one would find that only .18% of CHL holders are convicted of any crime in Texas. Of the 800,000 non-federal police officers in America, only .02% of them were killed in the line of duty. Only half of the 163 deaths in 2011 were firearm-related, which makes that percentage even lower. Only 6.8% of officers are assaulted in America, less than a quarter of which resulted in injury.
So, what we have here is a dichotomy between non-threatening gun owners and a statistically safe law enforcement community. However, we always hear about “officer safety” as the reason that Texans are being disarmed during most interactions with police officers. We have been conditioned to think that police work is really dangerous so we should voluntarily surrender our rights to make them feel comfortable. I’m not talking about all police officers. As a matter of fact, I would even venture to say that the problems almost exclusively reside within city police departments. Sheriff Departments seem to be immune. Since Sheriffs are elected officials, they stand to lose more if their deputies treat the citizenry with any kind of disrespect.
The solution is simple: police departments need to do a better job of educating their officers about gun rights. When I was a new Soldier, I always went out of my way to learn Army regulations and field manuals. I took great care to learn as much as I could about what I was expected to do and ensured I knew how and why I was to do it. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that our officers take the initiative to educate themselves if their departments aren’t willing to train them on the laws they’re tasked to enforce. Until they do this, American patriots like Nate Sampson will continue to find themselves in lose/lose situations where they have to defend themselves against bogus charges and pay thousands of dollars or accept plea bargains that leave them with fines and criminal records – which affect their promotion potential.
Listen to our Top Talk Radio interview last week with Nate and his attorney: