Lee Davis: 6th Circuit Rules That Park Ranger Was Right To Detain Man Carrying AK-47

Sunday, September 30, 2012 - by Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis
In Embody v. Ward the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a park ranger did not violate the rights of a man who wore camouflage and carried an AK-47-style pistol across his chest with a loaded 30-round clip in a Nashville park.

The gun toting man from Brentwood, Leonard Embody, sued park ranger Steve Ward for detaining him at the Radnor Lake State Natural area back in December 2009. Ward held Embody while he investigated whether the gun was legal and whether Embody had a permit to lawfully carry it. The investigation revealed that Tennessee law allows guns with barrels of less than 12 inches in state parks. Luckily for Embody, his gun just squeaked by, with his barrel a half-inch under the limit.
The stupidity of the Tennessee legislature to pass such a law allowing a man to bring a AK-47 into a state park was not at issue.

Embody also painted the  tip of his gun orange, an attempt to make the gun look like a toy. The Sixth Circuit said that given this, “An officer could fairly suspect that Embody had used the paint to disguise an illegal weapon.”

The Court also mentioned the concern raised by other park-goers: evidently one person raised his hands in the air when he ran across Embody while two other park visitors came to Ward to say they were “very concerned” about the man. Later an elderly couple reported that a man was wandering through the park with an assault rifle. All of this was further evidence, according to the Court, that Ward behaved reasonably when detaining Embody.

The Sixth Circuit said that Embody’s detention was predictable and that Embody himself suspected it might happen which is why he carried an audio-recording device on his person. The Court clearly felt little sympathy for Embody, saying that having worked hard to appear suspicious, Embody cannot later complain because park rangers took the bait.

Full opinion can be found here.

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)

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