I ran across an interesting story in a free Manchester Paper this week about a police gun investigation that took place in Manchester. You can read the story in full here.
Police responded to a tip regarding 4 "teens" one of which had a gun strapped to his waist. Police arrived on the scene and after demanding they stop and put their hand up, detained the three men and one woman (none of which were teens), seized the guns two of them carried and searched their pockets. All of this was done without any crime having taken place or evidence of any crime. Just because two men looked young and had guns safely secured in holsters on their belts.
Police Chief David Mara is quoted in saying “If the people want to make a complaint, it will be investigated and the facts and circumstances will be investigated and determined. And if we find that our officers acted inappropriately, we will take appropriate action.” “The police are not taking a stand against gun rights, we’re just trying to keep people safe.”
“If a person is walking toward a school with a gun, are we not supposed to respond to that because it’s legal for a person to carry a gun? Is it unreasonable for a parent to be concerned and call the police?”
Ok, so if a middle aged man with a bag of candy is seen walking in the vicinity of a school is it appropriate for police to walk up an demand he put his hands up and search him because a parent may be concerned he might be a child molester? Maybe check out his car for any supplies that might be used in a kidnapping?
Or what about a younger black man in a hooded sweat shirt carrying a backpack? If police drove up to him and yelled out "freeze, put your hands above your head" and proceeded to search him because someone is concerned he might be a drug dealer? Clearly police should check out what's in his bag right? Privacy should be taken away if we can protect the kids from a perspective drug dealer, right?
How about they drag in all young women walking down the street wearing provocative clothing for questioning because they might be a prostitute?
Walking down the street carrying a gun is 100% legal in this state and what the Manchester police did was wrong. Had this been the first time they unjustly stopped someone simply because that person choose to use his or her right to carry a gun then it could be excused as a mistake on their part but they made the mistake once already by detaining Dave Ridely. This is becoming a clear cut pattern in their behavior.
In any of the other situation listed above you would see the ACLU filing class action lawsuits again that city and respective police departments. Is that what it's going to take before the Manchester Police realize it is NOT ok to stop someone who has done nothing illegal and nothing wrong? Is that what it will take for them to actually follow the Constitutions they are sworn to protect and uphold?
Amendment IV - 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.
The federal constitution protects us from being searched without probable cause.
[Art.] 2-a. [The Bearing of Arms.] All persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state.
The NH state constitution specifically gives us the right to keep and bear arms.
So given the fact that we are constitutionally allowed to keep and bear arms, where is the probable cause for stopping someone carrying a gun? I guess I better watch what I say because if carrying a gun is probable cause then clearly exorcizing free speech and criticizing public officials who violate our rights must be cause to have my whole house searched.
I'd like to share a letter writen by one of the young men involved telling his side of the story:
David J. Mara
Chief of Police
Manchester Police Department
351 Chestnut Street
Manchester, NH 03101
Hon. Frank C. Guinta
City of Manchester
One City Hall Plaza
Manchester, NH 03101
Friday, June 20, 2008
I am writing to you to lodge a complaint against the Manchester Police Department and Mayor in his capacity of Chief Executive of the City stemming from an incident that took place on Sunday, June 8 at about 6:50pm.
On the afternoon of Sunday, June 8, at approximately 5:45pm, I left a small gathering at Murphy's Taproom, located at 494 Elm Street. I was accompanied by three visitors from Gainesville, Florida: Neal Conner, Roxanne Schulman, and Alexander Villacampa. This was Mr. Villacampa's and Ms. Schulman's first visit to New Hampshire, and they showed some interest in moving to Manchester. I took them on a short walking tour of the center of the city.
Mr. Conner and Mr. Villacampa were carrying pistols in plain view, as is their right guaranteed by the Constitution of New Hampshire.
We walked North along Elm from Auburn to Granite, made a left to walk over the river as far as the I-293 overpass, then turned East, following Granite and subsequently Lake Ave, toward my home. As the heat index that day was well over 100 degrees, we stopped at Han's Food Mart at 353 Lake Ave for drinks, then set out to continue the few remaining blocks toward my home.
Shortly after crossing Lincoln, we heard a sharp whistle behind us and turned. A Manchester Patrol officer shouted at us to put our hands in the air. We complied. When asked, it was made very clear we were not free to leave. Soon, we were surrounded by six officers from two bicycles and three patrol cars.
We were asked to provide identification. Upon questioning, we were falsely instructed that providing identification was required, and we complied. The four of us were patted down and subjected to criminal checks. Mr. Conner and Mr. Villacampa were then disarmed under duress. One officer physically searched inside the pockets of Mr. Conner.
While we waited for records of ourselves and the firearms to come back clear, which they naturally did, we were subjected to a condescending lecture about the carrying of arms, and quizzed repeatedly as to why we would carry a firearm, the most asinine of which was the recursive "This is the most dangerous neighborhood in New Hampshire! Why would you want to carry a gun?" We were also told one officer's side of the story about a similar stop last fall involving our friend David Ridley, implying that either the officers involved knew they were crossing the line, or that it is Manchester Police Department's own policy to do so.
When asked why we would be unlawfully detained and searched simply for lawfully carrying firearms, we were told that the officers had an interest in protecting themselves and the neighborhood. The mere thought that we may have the same goals was laughed off.
We were told that the officers understood that we have a right to carry firearms, but if we choose to exercise that right, we would continue to be subject to such unconstitutional, unlawful, and dehumanizing treatment.
After about 30 minutes of our polite endurance of various disrespectful and arrogant statements and questions by the officers, Mr. Conner's and Mr. Villacampa's firearms were returned, ammunition separately, and they were falsely informed that they were not allowed to reload them.
We continued eastward and walked the remaining block home.
Points of Complaint
We were told that the officers were obligated to respond to every call. While that is certainly true, there are two possible, helpful, and lawful ways to do so: drive by and see if anything illegal is going on, and even possibly stopping simply to talk, and responding to the complaintant to educate them that carrying a firearm is completely lawful. Ensuring one person's feeling of security by violating another's actual security is simply unacceptable.
This detention took place less than half a block from where Officer Michael Briggs was murdered, which I'm sure explains the overly emotional state of some of the officers involved. However, a policy of trying to persuade the law-abiding inhabitants of the neighborhood to disarm can only aggravate the situation, dishearten the people of Manchester to protect themselves, and violates the officer's own sworn duty to protect the public's safety.
The original detention, with no reasonable, articulable suspicion that any of us were or would be involved in commission of a crime, violated RSA 625:6 (All Offenses Defined by Statute); RSA 633:3 (False Imprisonment); RSA 643:1 (Official Oppression); 42 USC 1983 (Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights); Article 2-a (The Bearing of Arms) and Article 29 (Suspension of Laws by Legislature Only) of the New Hampshire Constitution; and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution as clarified in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) and Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266 (2000).
The searching inside of pockets and seizing of firearms clearly violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution as clarified in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
The entire incident, from start to finish, violated the spirit of Article 12 and the last clause of Article 10 of the New Hampshire Constitution.
The fact that the officers were quite knowledgeable of previous, nearly identical incidents, with at least a 4 year history of such illegal stops, as well as thier assurance that if one wishes to exercise certain rights, he should expect to have others violated, constitutes a conspiracy to and/or pattern and practice of violating rights under color of law, variously 18 USC 241, 42 USC 1983, and 42 USC 14141. The Boston office of the FBI has advised me this is enough evidence to initiate a civil rights investigation of MPD if I wished to do so. However, I do not wish to do that unless absolutely necessary to stop these abuses.
I would like to solve this in a gentlemanly fashion that will compensate myself and my friends, as well as prevent any other citizens from being subjected to this kind of abuse. I request the following forms of relief:
A full, public apology to myself, Mr. Conner, Ms. Schulman, and Mr. Villacampa, from the Mayor's Office and Manchester Police Department, to be published in the Union Leader and the Gainesville Sun, if necessary at the expense of the Mayor's Office or Manchester Police Department;
Retraining of all Manchester patrol officers on Article 2-a, New Hampshire Statutes Chapter 159, and unlawful detentions, searches, and seizures; and
A Manchester Police Department policy of immediate dismissal of any officer found to have repeatedly unlawfully detained any citizen simply for lawfully exercising his or her constitutional rights.
I believe that given the circumstances, this is a very reasonable request.
If all the previous are fully followed through, I will seek no further civil or action directed toward either the City of Manchester or the Manchester Police Department. However, if any are not, I reserve my right to file suit in state and/or federal court against the City of Manchester and/or the Manchester Police Department for these violations.
The last thing I want is for it to take a lawsuit or investigation in order to teach the city that a public servant can't arbitrarily violate one's human, civil, and constitutional rights.
I assure you, I wish to resolve this in as gentlemanly a manner as possible, and await your response.
459 Wilson St
Manchester NH 03103
Kelly A. Ayotte
33 Capitol Street
Concord, N.H. 03301