Police Department contest to seize guns results in lawsuit after arrest
The Southern California city of San Fernando and its Police Department will pay $44,000 for negligence because an officer did not know the rules and regulations for individuals or law enforcement officers to lawfully carrying a firearm.
The City of San Fernando agreed to pay approximately $44,000 to San Fernando former Coast Guard Reserve maritime law enforcement Officer Jose Diaz. The city must also implement new policies and procedures for the improper arrest and seizure of Coast Guard Reserve Diaz, according to the San Fernando Police Department. The police department also agreed to a “Finding of Factual Innocence.”
Diaz contends that a police department contest was a driving factor in this case.
“The San Fernando Police Department give’s out awards to officer’s that ‘achieve benchmarks in firearm confiscations,(YouTube video)” said Jason Davis an attorney for Calguns. “But this contest encourages the illegal confiscation of lawfully possessed firearms by officers who do not understand the laws themselves.”
While the settlement may seem small, Calguns, a state and national gun rights advocacy group, says the lawsuit was sought to ensure San Fernando properly trains its officers to deal with law-abiding gun owners.
In November of 2007, then Reserve Coast Guard maritime law enforcement Officer Diaz was driving to a shooting range when he was stopped by San Fernando Police Officer Marshall Mack to determine if Diaz had the proper vehicle registration, according to a statement released by Davis.
“Upon approaching Diaz’s vehicle, Officer Mack observed a firearms case in the back seat with a firearm cable lock entangled around the handle of the case. Officer Mack was able to open the case without a key,” says Davis. “The case contained two loaded magazines and a Glock with no magazine in the well of the firearm and no cartridge in the chamber.”
The plaintiffs claimed the cable lock that entangled around the gun was a “lock container” however Officer Mack disagreed. The police officer also took issue with the fact that a Coast Guard reserve maritime law enforcement officer was permitted to carry pursuant to the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act, which allows police officers to carry firearms off duty.
”I showed Officer Mack my Coast Guard ID and informed the officer that the LEOSA permitted me to carry a firearm as a Coast Guard maritime law enforcement reserve officer,” said Diaz. “I also informed Officer Mack that I was carrying the firearm lawfully – unloaded and in a locked container.”
Unbeknownst to Coast Guard Reserve Diaz, Police Officer Mack falsely subscribed to the fact that California law required firearms be stored separate from the ammunition. Mack arrested Diaz for unlawful possession of a loaded firearm because a loaded magazine was touching the firearm within the case. The police officer hauled Diaz to jail where he was booked and spent one day and night in jail.
The unlawful arrest and gun charges were later dismissed.
Diaz’s subsequent civil lawsuit for battery, false arrest, and federal civil rights violations languished until Calguns got involved.
“While we cannot financially support every firearms case, we have a stake in many of them,” said Gene Hoffman, Chairman for The Calguns Foundation. “We recommended that Diaz use an attorney knowledgeable in firearm laws and offered informational support.”
Diaz retained his Calguns attorney Davis who orchestrated a settlement with the San Fernando Police Department. The terms of the settlement include educational policies on assault weapons; carry permits, open carry and LEOSA rules.
“Public safety is of the utmost importance… and that includes safety from infringement of our constitutional rights under the color of law,” said Davis. “With this settlement, and the policies implemented as a result of the agreement, it is my hope that law enforcement throughout the state will get the message that California’s gun owners insist on their rights.”
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