Open gun carrier wins settlement in Corvallis unlawful detainment case

2013-11-02T07:45:00Z 2013-11-05T15:07:53Z Open gun carrier wins settlement in Corvallis unlawful detainment caseBy CANDA FUQUA, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times
November 02, 2013 7:45 am  • 

The city’s insurance carrier paid a man $5,000 last month to settle a lawsuit following a federal judge’s opinion that a Corvallis police officer unlawfully detained and searched the man two years ago as he was retrieving his mail — and openly carrying a gun.

Kevin Hall, who has since moved from Corvallis to Alpine, represented himself in the lawsuit, which he launched Oct. 9, 2012, two weeks shy of the one-year deadline to file.

The 31-year-old software developer and Monroe volunteer firefighter said he was walking the less than 200 feet to his house after retrieving his mail in the early afternoon on Oct. 26, 2011, when Corvallis Police Officer James Dodge pulled up, got out of his patrol car and approached him.

Hall, who wore a gun in a holster attached to his belt and a knife clipped in his front pocket, said he was prepared. He had memorized his legal rights concerning interactions with law enforcement and his rights to openly carry firearms. Normally, he also had with him an audio recorder and an iPod capable of video recording to ensure the honesty of law enforcement.

During the stop, which lasted only minutes, Officer Dodge questioned Hall, performed an exterior pat down to check for additional weapons and then checked with dispatch to see if Hall had warrants — using a name found on a piece of Hall’s mail. Hall then was allowed to go.

Reasonable suspicion

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane issued an opinion in September that Dodge didn’t have the required reasonable suspicion to detain Hall.

Both sides agree, according to court documents, that when Hall noticed Dodge exit his patrol vehicle, he asked if he was being detained. The officer replied no, but said he’d like to speak to Hall. Hall ignored Dodge’s questions and asked again if he was being detained. That time, Dodge replied yes. Hall remained silent as Dodge patted him down and asked him questions such as where he lived and whether he had identification on him.

Court documents indicate that the officer was suspicious of Hall because he was openly carrying a gun in a high-crime area along the railroad tracks, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt covering his head, behaving and moving suspiciously and refusing to answer his questions. Hall’s residence and mailbox were on a short section of Sixth Street, near D Avenue, which borders the railroad tracks. It is unpaved and dead-ends before it reaches C Avenue.

The officer said he had reasonable suspicion that Hall had been trespassing on railroad property.

Judge McShane disagreed.

“The gravity of the public concern — criminal trespass — was minimal,” he wrote, “as was the public concern — preventing criminal trespass and ‘transient-related crimes and violations’ — served by the seizure.”

Because it was an unlawful stop, McShane wrote, Dodge also didn’t have the right to pat down Hall. Both actions, according to McShane, violated Hall’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Began with a complaint

Before filing a lawsuit, Hall first filed a complaint with the Corvallis Police Department.

“We did conduct the investigation internally,” Police Chief Jon Sassaman said. “Of course, we sometimes end up with differing opinions based on everybody’s recollection. We didn’t find that the officer did anything wrong. Unfortunately, the federal judge disagreed.”

The city, police department and insurance carrier determined that a settlement would be the cheaper route, he said.

“As a city, we have to decide what the economic threshold is for which we would continue to challenge the ruling, even if we feel the ruling is inaccurate,” he said.

‘A rights thing, not a gun thing’

When Hall moved to Corvallis from Los Angeles in June 2011, he openly carried a gun wherever he was legally allowed — to prove a point, to exercise his rights and to open up dialogue.

“For me, it’s always been more of a rights thing, not a gun thing,” he said. “When I open carry, the reason I do it is to remind people of their rights.”

Hall has a concealed weapons permit and he participates in competition shooting. His dad, sister and brother-in-law are all in law enforcement, he said.

In the four months he lived in Corvallis prior to the incident, he had only one other encounter with police while openly carrying, and it was consensual, he said.

Mostly, he said, people just did a double-take when he walked around town with his Glock 22 visible in its holster — although one time he had a good talk with two perturbed ladies who questioned him at the library.

He stopped, for the most part, openly packing heat after he filed the lawsuit.

“I stopped because my personal belief is, if you open carry, you have to be willing to say no to police and sometimes that results in being arrested and being detained,” he said. “Since I had one lawsuit going on, I didn’t want another one.”

‘We get caught in the middle’

The Corvallis Police Department recognizes the rights of citizens to legally carry firearms, Sassaman said, but the situation gets sticky when members of the community who are uncomfortable with it call the police.

“A lot of times we find that people are trying to draw law enforcement in and then later say that we were violating their rights,” he said. “When citizens are calling 911, we have to somehow evaluate what that situation is. Is it truly someone who is legally carrying a firearm or is it someone who committed a crime or is about to commit a crime? We get caught in the middle of that.”

Sassaman recalled a specific “gun rights activist” from a few years ago.

“We had a guy carrying an AR-15 downtown, which is a military-style weapon. It made people nervous,” he said.

After Hall filed a complaint — and before he launched the lawsuit — the agency conducted a refresher course on related laws and policies.

“We, as a department, recognized this as one of those volatile issues, and we were experiencing other open-carry activists in town at that time,” he said. “We said, let’s review the Second Amendment, the open carry laws, the concealed carry laws and all the other weapon statutes for Oregon.”

Reporter ​Canda Fuqua can be reached at 541-758-9548 or canda.fuqua@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CandaFuqua.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(29) Comments

  1. boredNcurious
    Report Abuse
    boredNcurious - November 06, 2013 2:28 pm
    “We said, let’s review the Second Amendment, the open carry laws, the concealed carry laws and all the other weapon statutes for Oregon.”

    Good idea! Be hard on criminals, not citizen rights.
  2. DCartier
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    DCartier - November 05, 2013 10:37 pm
    The article very clearly says that that area has a crime problem, so the man has a perfectly acceptable and understandable need for a weapon. The police may have been there THAT day but I'm sure they wouldn't have been if they'd been needed at all. If someone is clearly getting mail from the mailbox it's pretty absurd to assume that they are up to no good. Everyone should be required to know the firearms laws in their area.
  3. ALVEE
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    ALVEE - November 05, 2013 9:26 pm
    Exactly.
  4. ALVEE
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    ALVEE - November 05, 2013 9:21 pm
    It's weird? Is it weird for the cops to openly carry a firearm. Frankly, the uniform screams "COP" why don't they keep the weapons concealed. I mean it's not that criminals make cops their "first" victims. I suppose you see a lot of cops getting robbed, beat etc... where you live, but where I live the criminals prey on the private citizens (not civilians) not the cops.
    So, you have a gun or so you say and you think it is unnecessary for someone to wear their gun...not your gun mind you.... but their gun. You are weird.
  5. ALVEE
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    ALVEE - November 05, 2013 9:18 pm
    Thank you for standing up in your community.
  6. ALVEE
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    ALVEE - November 05, 2013 9:16 pm
    Officer Dodge is a probable "liar" and the chief is that and a statist.

    “We get caught in the middle of that.” so says the chief

    HEY CHIEF IT IS YOUR DUTY TO BE ON THE "RIGHT" side of the LAW and not give an excuse that you are caught in the "MIDDLE" of political correctness. Chief, you probably should let someone else speak for you... you don't come across very sincere or chiefly.

    Every concerned citizen of Corvallis needs to carry a copy of this article with them AND A VIDEO/AUDIO RECORDER.

    Conducted an internal investigation - yeah...right and a public investigation i.e. the court said that your officer was WRONG and frankly you were doubly wrong to continue the case. Your officer broke the law and the spirit of the law, but that doesn't matter to the Chief because he doesn't respect the law either or courts of law. His attitude is to keep giving excuses and the cost of lawyers and the measly $5000.00 will be paid by the taxpayer.
  7. Unlicensed_Dremel
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    Unlicensed_Dremel - November 05, 2013 5:07 pm
    Hell yes. F the F'ing police - they're out of control and don't even know the law. Another glorious victory against the statists/fascists who want victim disarmament, following up on the epic butt-rapings of Giron and Morse in Colo. It's a good good time for civil rights!
  8. Zed
    Report Abuse
    Zed - November 05, 2013 12:53 pm
    You folks think what you want. I was his landlord before I sold the house. He has a right to be
    on the railroad property proved by his address which the cop knew. He is not a nut. I have spent hours talking to him. He knows the law better than the cops and the case proves it. I
    had no fear with Kevin and his gun. If you folks knew how many HIDDEN guns are being carried you would not be so concerned over Kevin. The cop screwed up he had to be right
    and he wasn't. I would demote him for such a obvious mistake. The other cops in Corvallis seem to be able to follow the law.
  9. TheRealJules
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    TheRealJules - November 05, 2013 12:26 pm
    "It's legal but it's weird and unnecessary. "

    Translation: "I cannot think of any reason why I would want to use a certain right, and my imagination and understanding of other people is so limited that I can't think of any reason why they would want to use it, so they shouldn't have it."
  10. YaRight
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    YaRight - November 05, 2013 10:16 am
    It's sad that you have so severely limited the possible explanations for his actions. Thoughtless, trite, and just plain nasty.
  11. YaRight
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    YaRight - November 05, 2013 10:07 am
    It must be exhausting to live in irrational fear all the time.
  12. MandoMadMan
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    MandoMadMan - November 05, 2013 8:37 am
    I'm a firearm owner and I've never felt the need to carry one for protection anywhere I've ever been in the State of Oregon.

    I wouldn't think a man his size would need one for protection unless he was a drug dealer or somebody's after him like his girlfriend's husband - something personal.

    It's legal but it's weird and unnecessary.
  13. MandoMadMan
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    MandoMadMan - November 05, 2013 8:31 am
    Just looking at him he looks like ' a creepy bad guy with a gun' instead of a 'good guy with a gun.'

    If I didn't know him I would of called the cops on him.

    And yes, Corvallis is such a crime filled place that you need to be armed to the teeth to get your mail. Right.................

    It must be exhausting to live in irrational fear all the time.
  14. Texas TopCat
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    Texas TopCat - November 04, 2013 2:31 pm
    "the police caught in the middle" - well there is a solution for this, arrest the people that make false statements on the 911 calls. It is desirable for citizens to report suspicious activity, however, when a person reports "seeing a gun" as suspicious, they are not being truthful and thus guilty of making false statements.
    We have here in Texas a few MAIG supported groups, usually with "Mommies" or "Mothers" in there name admit to calling 911 every time they see or think someone may have a gun and claiming to be "threaten and scared and requiring emergency help". This technique has to be stopped and the police are the only ones in a position to stop it.
  15. TheRealJules
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    TheRealJules - November 04, 2013 1:37 pm
    Kilgore Trout: "This scene smarts of reverse entrapment, with a payday at the public's expense."

    I bet you blame the rape victim because she was dressed too nicely and was someplace she shouldn't have been. She was luring the rapist into committing the crime -- he was entrapped! Just like this law abiding citizen deliberately walked out to his mailbox trying to lure an innocent Corvallis police officer into violating his constitutional rights.

    I don't know what you mean by "had a script". "He knew his rights" and how to respond to police inquiries is now "a script"? And he normally carries an iPod, so you assume that he was carrying it this time despite the clear implication that he wasn't. Guess what, KT: my phone will record videos. I carry it all the time. Am I carrying "a script" and am I trying to "reverse entrap" police when I walk to the mailbox?
  16. TheRealJules
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    TheRealJules - November 04, 2013 10:41 am
    Remember, folks, when you mark that ballot, Corvallis wants to hire three more people like this to wander the streets, and pay for more to wander the schools. Your 'no' vote can stop this from happening.

    Chief Sassaman: the AR15 is not a military weapon. It looks similar to one that the military uses, but as they say, "if looks could kill...". The function is different. Please stop trying to spread this "assault weapon", "military weapon" nonsense. You'd expect a professional police officer to know better, but then, we expect them to know the second and fourth amendment, and more important, to respect both. I guess that's what we get for assuming the police are well trained and interested in protecting our rights,
  17. TheRealJules
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    TheRealJules - November 04, 2013 10:16 am
    "Any person in the general public would find it disconcerting that a man is carrying a firearm to check his mail. "

    So what? Your unreasonable fear is a reason to violate someone else's rights?

    "Sad when police officers are sued for doing their jobs, ensuring the safety and well-being of the public."

    Uhh, Sara, it is not the job of the police department to violate someone's constitutional rights. "We were just doing what we were told to do" has been passe' as an excuse for a long time.
  18. JD151
    Report Abuse
    JD151 - November 04, 2013 6:31 am
    Let's see if SaraBreeAna's logic holds up with other rights. Altered portions are in brackets.

    In the world we live in today, a person [exercising free political speech] is a red flag and should be considered a threat, not a reminder that we have a right to legally [speak] . The fact that he was "prepared" - memorizing his legal rights concerning interactions with law enforcement and his rights to openly [speak], on top of, having an audio recorder and an iPod capable of video recording seems to me to be more of a way to draw out police officers. Sad when police officers are sued for doing their jobs, ensuring the safety and well-being of the public.

    By the way, law enforcement's job is not 'ensuring the safety and well being of the public.' They owe a duty of care to no one.
  19. ExiledonThirdStreet
    Report Abuse
    ExiledonThirdStreet - November 04, 2013 3:54 am
    YaRight: Thanks for writing the post I intended to write.

    A couple reads explain these type of developments:

    The Authoritarions (free);
    http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drbob/TheAuthoritarians.pdf

    GESTAPO: A History of Horror (1.99 ebook):
    http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/Search/Query?query=The%20Gestapo&fcmedia=Book

    Facts are pesky things.
  20. bgoralczyk
    Report Abuse
    bgoralczyk - November 03, 2013 5:30 pm
    Entrapment is convincing someone to to break the law and then holding them accountable.

    This is simply doing something that you know will cause raised eyebrows and being prepared for possible backlash.

    Being prepared is simply smart.
  21. Elidommom
    Report Abuse
    Elidommom - November 02, 2013 8:22 pm
    Why the 'caught in the middle'? It's quite easy to tell people they have a second amendment right, and that open carry is legal there. I would the police would get tired of dealing with folks who are too stupid to know what the laws are where they live.
    BTW, wait til the Shannon Watts screaming mimi crowd gets a load of this story, they'll be pitching a fit!
  22. Nottoobitter
    Report Abuse
    Nottoobitter - November 02, 2013 5:01 pm
    I am a member of the Corvallis General public SaraBreeAna. I for one do not find it disconcerting that a man is carrying a firearm to check his mail. When I see a person with a gun I am not afraid. I see a person who has a vested interest in protecting themselves and those around them. Any one who carries a firearm in view is saying 'I have nothing to hide'. Some folks are just scared all the time.
  23. YaRight
    Report Abuse
    YaRight - November 02, 2013 2:29 pm
    Straw Man Fallacy: Ignoring an idea and substituting a distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented version of that idea so that it can be claimed as false.
  24. SaraBreeAna
    Report Abuse
    SaraBreeAna - November 02, 2013 1:02 pm
    Any person in the general public would find it disconcerting that a man is carrying a firearm to check his mail.

    “For me, it’s always been more of a rights thing, not a gun thing. When I open carry, the reason I do it is to remind people of their rights.” - Kevin Hall

    In the world we live in today, a person carrying a weapon is a red flag and should be considered a threat, not a reminder that we have a right to legally have/carry a firearm. The fact that he was "prepared" - memorizing his legal rights concerning interactions with law enforcement and his rights to openly carry firearms, on top of, having an audio recorder and an iPod capable of video recording seems to me to be more of a way to draw out police officers. Sad when police officers are sued for doing their jobs, ensuring the safety and well-being of the public.
  25. Kilgore Trout
    Report Abuse
    Kilgore Trout - November 02, 2013 12:40 pm
    I never contested the man's right to openly, nor did I say I didn't like it. I just pointed out a weakness in the argument that LEO's are curiously exempt from danger and caution here in Happy Swell Valley.
    Surveillance has gotten out of hand across the country, and law enforcement does over reach, and should be held accountable when it does.
    All that said, lawfully equipped with a firearm, a script, and a recording device, this man sought and achieved attention and was prepared to engage law enforcement procedurally. The LEO was within his authority to investigate what was probably based on a complaint. The razor's edge is what happens after that. There's a procedural lesson for the CPD.
    I own firearms, & support the constitution. This scene smarts of reverse entrapment, with a payday at the public's expense.
  26. Sensical
    Report Abuse
    Sensical - November 02, 2013 12:14 pm
    So what?

    I can find stories of law enforcement officers being hit by motorists as well. Should CPD start stopping every driver just in case one of them is a nut?

    Oregon is a right to carry state. Citizens ARE legally allowed to carry openly. You don't have to like it. Those pesky 'rights' thingies, though, disagree.
  27. Kilgore Trout
    Report Abuse
    Kilgore Trout - November 02, 2013 11:32 am
    In this paper, in 'Roses and Raspberries', is a story about a local law enforcement officer who was shot, maimed, nearly killed.
  28. YaRight
    Report Abuse
    YaRight - November 02, 2013 10:42 am
    “As a city, we have to decide what the economic threshold is for which we would continue to challenge the ruling, even if we feel the ruling is inaccurate,” he (Police Chief Jon Sassaman) said.

    Typical CPD. Even when a federal judge tells them that they are wrong they do not admit wrongdoing. OMG! What is that saying? Oh ya...

    Then I'll get on my knees and pray / We don't get fooled again / Don't get fooled again, no no / Yeah / Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.

    These people have literally gotten away with murder... if the average person only knew the stuff they do, and have done, ya'll would freak out... if you had any morality. Big city cops may have some excuse, but, in a little easy town like this, no. The residents of Corvallis should be ashamed of themselves for letting them act this way, continually, for years upon end, i.e. this is not the exception, it is the rule. Pffffff.
  29. Tazula
    Report Abuse
    Tazula - November 02, 2013 9:14 am
    Story cries out for a "nut graf" that concisely explains Oregon law on the carrying of firearms.

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