The conflict between law enforcement and armed military personnel in the community around Fort Hood, one of America’s largest military bases, has recently and repeatedly involved the issue of gun control — and the tension has been exacerbated in part by an Obama-supporting prosecutor described as a “bandleader” of anti-gun efforts in the heavily conservative community.
The conflict reached a fever pitch last month, when Texas police arrested an active-duty Army sergeant for “rudely displaying” a hunting rifle. The sergeant, C.J. Grisham, established an online legal defense fund after he was, in his words, “illegally arrested and disarmed” for carrying the firearm.
“While out hiking with my son through backcountry roads to help him earn his Eagle Scout rank, I was illegally arrested and disarmed without cause. I was thrown in jail and my lawfully owned weapons were confiscated without receipt or notice,” Grisham wrote on the website for the defense fund.
Video of the incident obtained by The Daily Caller shows officers defending their behavior to Grisham while restraining him.
“In this day and age, [people] are alarmed when they see someone with what you have,” one of the officers tells Grisham in the video. “They don’t care what the law is.”
Grisham, who is stationed at Fort Hood, was arrested in his hometown of Temple, Texas, east of the base, after police stopped him for carrying an unconcealed rifle slung over his shoulder. Texas is a right-to-carry state, and law-abiding gun permit owners can carry rifles and hunting weapons openly, so long as the weapons are not being carried in a threatening way.
But one of the Temple police officers told Grisham that anyone holding a gun is considered dangerous, according to the video.
“When you alarm people, and they call us,” one of the officers in the video begins to say, after Grisham asks why the officiers failed to ask for his concealed-carry permit.
“And did you explain to them what the law is, sir?” Grisham asks.
“They don’t care what the law is,” the officer replies. Graham then shoots back, “Do you care what the law is?”
“In this day and age, they’re alarmed when they see somebody with what you have,” the officer replies.
“Just because a guy has got a firearm, he’s dangerous?” Grisham asks, drawing the reply, “Yes, sir.”
One of the officers tells Grisham he was “rudely displaying” the rifle.
Temple police, who did not respond to a request to comment for this story, said in a statement to the local press that Grisham refused to hand over his weapon when asked, forcing them to make the arrest.
Officers placed Grisham in handcuffs, took him into custody and escorted his 15-year old son home. Grisham was booked for resisting arrest. He then made bond and retained an attorney.
His charge was later reduced from resisting arrest to the class B misdemeanor of “interrupting, disrupting, impeding and interfering with a peace officer while performing a duty.”
Texas private investigator Tony Garcia, who has been retained by Grisham’s attorney, Kurt Glass, told TheDC that Grisham’s arrest was the result of “a little incident on the outskirts of town.”
“People see guns that are not on a police officer, and they don’t think it’s right,” Garcia said.
Grisham’s case is yet another result of an apparently longstanding problem in Bell County, which incorporates both Fort Hood and the residential city of Temple. County law enforcement officials and active-duty soldiers have frequently sparred over traffic stops and other incidents, including ones related to gun laws, according to several observers.
“The military is young guys, a lot of adrenaline. So you have the normal friction that’s going to happen. Sometimes the soldier is a little higher-ranking, and they generally know the law. So it gets to be, when the officer on the street makes contact with him, the officer has got to make split-second decisions. It tends to be more of an ego thing,” Grisham attorney Glass told TheDC.
According to Glass, Grisham’s case is reminiscent of an incident involving another of his clients, an Iraq War veteran named Nathaniel Sampson, who was arrested in Bell County for carrying a concealed firearm into Mextroplex Hospital after his wife was taken there by ambulance for an adverse reaction to an over-the-counter pain medication.
Sampson, a staff sergeant with three tours of duty in Iraq, drove behind the ambulance carrying his wife to the hospital. Immediately inside the hospital, he was stopped by security and admitted that he was carrying a concealed firearm, for which he had a permit. Sampson was arrested by police inside his wife’s hospital room and then charged with unlawful carry, on the grounds that it is illegal to concealed carry in a hospital.
“I didn’t even have a chance to talk to her. I couldn’t even check on her status,” Sampson told TheDC.
“One of the officers said to my face that he was unsure about whether or not I could have the weapon. He told me he was going to go find out. Before he came back, they arrested me anyway,” Sampson said. “One of the officers then apparently walked back and antagonized my wife as I was going to jail.”
Bell County prosecutor Ken Kalafut, described by multiple sources as one of the few recognizable liberals in the heavily Republican area, took on the case.
“The prosecutor in that case [Kalafut] has a picture of President Obama behind him in his office, and he sits there and tells me, ‘I will make sure that gun does not fall into anyone else’s hands. I will have that gun destroyed,’” Glass said.
Kalafut declined to be interviewed for this story. Private investigator Garcia told TheDC that Kalafut is “probably the bandleader” of gun-control efforts in the community.
“There was no evidence against me. The reason the prosecutor wouldn’t drop the case is because he’s a huge, huge, gun-control advocate,” Sampson said.
Glass said he forced Kalafut to drop the case in a process that took 10 months, first arguing that Metroplex Hospital did not have signs posted informing people that concealed carry was forbidden.
“According to penal code 30.06, you must have a sign with one-inch block letters. We call it a thirty-aught-six sign, like the rifle,” Glass said.
“Police make mistakes,” Glass said. “Well, eight months later [Kalafut] says, ‘I’m going to charge him with being intoxicated. I said, ‘He didn’t blow. He never took a field sobriety test.’ The prosecutor said, ‘Yeah, but this makes the case stronger.’”
Prosecutors dropped the case after Glass leaked audio of Sampson’s 911 call to a local reporter, who provided the audio to prosecutors. The audio proved that Sampson was “stone-cold sober,” according to Glass.
“[Prosecutors] wadded up the piece of paper with their signatures on it and stuck it in my mailbox. I’ve framed it. It’s in the hallway here in the office,” Glass said.
Sampson, upset by his 10-month legal experience and the fact that he lost an additional duty title with the military as a result of his charge, asked Glass to file lawsuits against Metroplex Hospital, prompting local business leaders to come to the hospital’s defense behind the scenes.
“Bell County is a real small community. We started talking about a lawsuit, and all of the big firms have represented the hospital in a number of ways, so they called the hospital and told them they’re liable to get sued. So the hospital slapped up some signs,” Glass said.
“I’m a law-abiding citizen. People are being discriminated against,” Sampson said.
Though Grisham faces charges in Bell County, where Sampson endured his legal battle with Kalafut, it is unclear whether Grisham will have a similarly difficult experience.
Grisham has already raised $8,443 through his online legal defense fund, which puts him well on his way to reaching his $11,000 goal.