A Brentwood man is suing a State Park Ranger in Federal Court alleging his civil rights were violated.
This story stems back to a December 20th encounter at Radnor State Park. Leonard Embody was carrying an AK – 47 Pistol while walking the hiking trails.
Park Rangers detained the former Williamson County School bus driver until Metro Police and the ATF arrived.
After several hours, authorities determined the weapon was a “handgun” and didn’t violate the guns in parks law. Mr. Embody was released.
Now it’s happened again.
On January 23rd, Embody was stopped on Belle Meade Blvd near the Belle Meade Country Club.
A little after 5pm, it begins growing dark. Embody was carrying a black powder pistol, also known as an Army – Navy pistol, in his open hand.
Police detained Embody, who insisted that he was not breaking any laws. Police disagree.
Belle Meade has an antiquated gun law that was first created in the 1870’s. It was amended a hundred years later, but it still has many loopholes when it comes to weapons:
11-602 WEAPONS AND FIREARMS GENERALLY
It shall be unlawful for any person to carry in any manner whatever, with the intent to go armed, any razor, dirk, knife blackjack, brass knuckles, pistol, revolver, or any other dangerous weapon or instrument.
Then there is this sentence:
EXCEPT THE ARMY OR NAVY PISTOL WHICH SHALL BE CARRIED OPENLY IN THE HAND.
It is this ordinance, specifically the above sentence, that Embody repeatedly cited to 3 Belle Meade officers as they worked to get to the bottom of the weapon-related stop.
After 15 minutes, Embody was released, gun in hand. He later filed a freedom of information request and recieved copies of the stop, including the dash cam footage.
Tim Eads is the Belle Meade Police Chief. Eads was frank when discussing the stop.
“He was walking on the boulevard carrying an old black powder pistol in his open hand. We have an outdated ordinance. He researched it, and he decided to test the law with that.
It was twilight and he was wearing reflective gear. He was in compliance with that. We got a call from a citizen. There was some concern over an individual walking near the country club with a handgun.
Corporal Dennis Goins approached, him told him to lay down the weapon, he complied. During the stop he was argumentative saying we had no reason to stop him. He was in compliance with carrying the type weapon in his open hand.
It was a brief stop, 16 minutes, according to video and audio. He did have a valid handgun permit. Then, they released him.
What is messed up? The public alarm. In today’s society, with all the shootings they have, I support 2nd amendment rights, but it comes down to being reasonable. He is near the country club. We don’t know. All we know is a man is walking openly displaying the gun. We don’t know his intent. People are coming out. They don’t know if the guy is there to shoot someone. Is he here to go on a rampage or car jack someone? There are factors, and if people see a firearm displayed, they become alarmed. It scares them.
Who is he what is his intent? We don’t know until we stop and have a conversation with him. I think it was to draw publicity to himself.
Law enforcement has the responsibility to protect the citizens.
What he is doing is reckless. He might not be paying attention. If he points that gun, officer will react accordingly.
Not just an officer, but another carry person might feel threatened and they might take action. It is reckless for him as well.”
Leonard Embody sees the incident much differently, and sends That’s Messed Up this statement:
“I think the police over-reacted. The police didn’t know the law in Belle Meade. They had no idea that the only legal way to carry in the city is openly in the hand. This is evidenced by Corporal Goins when he asked if I had a holster. The police report shows Officer Curter identified my pistol as a navy pistol before it was ran to see if the pistol was stolen. There is no requirement for anyone to have a handgun carry permit to carry in Belle Meade. TCA 39-17-1314(a) states that cities with ordinances in effect before April 8, 1986 can regulate possession, and transportation. Nashville Metro law office attorney, Sue Cain, gave her opinion on TCA 39-17-1314(a) last year. Her opinion states that Metro has a right to regulate arms because their law was in effect since 1966. The attorney general from the State has not issued any opinions concerning TCA 39-17-1314(a).
In the police’s over-reaction, civil rights were violated. It is illegal for a police officer to detain a person without reasonable, articulable suspicion that the person is committing a crime or will commit a crime. The complaint call about me didn’t complain about any crime being committed. The detention was illegal. The frisk was illegal. The search of my interior pockets was illegal. Running my pistol to see if it was stolen was illegal. The detention to somehow educate me was illegal.
In Belle Meade I carried the only pistol I could have legally carried, the army or navy pistol. I carried openly in my hand as required by Belle Meade law. If it were legal to carry another handgun I would have carried something else. If it were legal to have it holstered I would of holstered the handgun. The Belle Meade law is a copy of the 1871 Tennessee State law which made it very difficult to carry handguns. The Supreme Court of Tennessee found many times see Andrews v State that the handgun carried must be an army or navy and it must be carried openly in the hand, not in a holster. The City of Belle Meade updated their law in 1987 which is relatively short time ago and did not change the exception for the army navy pistol. They apparently like the law and I conformed to their ordinance.
I always carry a firearm where it is legal. It is cold outside right now, but when weather is nice I will carry my black powder pistol in my hand in Belle Meade. I have been stopped many times by police over the last 9 years. I have had a handgun carry permit. I’ve grown tired of the police vs. law abiding citizen routine. The police stop law abiding citizens with handgun carry permits, detain them, search them, ridicule or intimidate them, and let them go with a warning. I’d like to see that changed. I do not like carrying a voice recorder with me everywhere I go. Not only must I protect myself from thieves and robbers, but I have to protect myself from civil rights violations by police.
Yes, a Title 42 section 1983 civil rights violation will be filed against law enforcement for the illegal 2.5 hour detention at Radnor Lake.
I filed a complaint with the chief of police for the city of Belle Meade for violations of the fourth amendment and due process. I complained that the officer had no right to search my interior pockets during a terry stop. There was no reasonable suspicion I had weapons in my pockets. I should have been released immediately instead of the officers running my handgun to see if it was stolen. There was no reasonable articulable suspicion or probable that the handgun was stolen and it should not have been seized to run it. Police are not to play games with citizens. They shouldn’t go on fishing expeditions and the courts have ruled against these. I have heard nothing from the police chief as of today. If they came forward and apologized to me in a letter and promised to train their officers in handgun carry laws of the City I would let it go.”
We ask Chief Eads if he plans to apologize. He sends That Is Messed Up this statement:
“I seriously doubt he will let anything go. There is no money in it. I think if he was serious about changing the law he would have sued the State for one dollar and a change in the law. I would be happy to apologize if we did anything wrong, and the Officers do know the law. He was not cited for any crime, and they had just cause to briefly detain him. He can’t seem to understand that, and I don’t think he ever will. I should have a written response to his complaint by the first of the week or sooner.”