Sunday, August 24, 2008

Off-duty officers gone wild

When the Minnesota Personal Protection Act was passed in 2003, forcing county sheriffs to issue handgun carry permits to qualified applicants, certain law-enforcement officials, legislators and anti-gun activists moaned and wept that there soon would be "shootouts in the streets" over parking spots and the like.

Well, as far as I can tell, in the five years that the law has been in effect there have been zero road-rage incidents involving handguns that were precipitated by Minnesota carry permit holders. There have been, however, two road-rage incidents allegedly committed by off-duty police officers in that time span, the latest happening last Sunday in Two Harbors, Minnesota and seemingly started by a Superior, Wisconsin police officer.

The short version of the alleged facts in the latest incident, as reported by the Duluth News-Tribune: An off-duty cop named Ross Magnuson gets cheesed off by something another motorist does, follows that motorist to a gas station and then, without identifying himself as an officer, points his handgun at the motorist and asks him "Do you want to go?". The motorist miraculously manages to calm the cop down, and convinces him to drive off without terrorizing the driver further. The motorist then fortuitously copies down the cop's license plate number, and later picks him out of a line-up.

Magnuson has been charged with multiple felonies including second-degree assault and making terroristic threats, as well as a few misdemeanor charges. He has also been placed on administrative leave by his department, which is not commenting much on the incident.

The detail (or lack of) that tends to make me believe Magnuson is guilty of the charges? He admits "pulling leather" because he felt "threatened" by the motorist, but did not arrest the man, call in the local authorities or report drawing his gun to his superiors.

This incident is quite similar to the Landen Beard case that we have been following closely here. Fortunately, no one was injured in this latest abuse of authority, but taking these cases into account, as well as the saga of Jeffrey Gort, the off-duty Woodbury police officer who had a negligent discharge in a St. Cloud hotel room in 2006, we have to begin to wonder:

Should off-duty cops who happen to be in Minnesota be barred from carrying handguns?

After all, had there been a couple of high-profile road rage incidents involving carry permit holders as the aggressors, or a similar Gort-style screwup from a permit-carrying hotel room guest, the likes of Sue Fust and Heather Martens of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota would be screaming to the high heavens about the need for denying the rights of tens of thousands of people, based on the actions of two or three individuals.

Therefore, we look forward to seeing the press release from CSM, agitating for protecting the peasants from the scourge of the "out-of-control off-duty cop".

As always, the latest information on these and other interesting firearms-related Minnesota cases can be found on the Forum.

1 comment:

Bike Bubba said...

What gets me is not that officers misbehave, but for whatever reason their superiors turn a blind eye to this. Wasn't one of those guys promoted and offered a federal job after his escapade?