Officer's Facebook post draws gun rights fire

Police detective in East Palo Alto, Calif., allegedly threatened to shoot law-abiding gun owners who dared to exercise their Second Amendment right to carry unloaded handguns.

Rod Tuason has become the latest person to learn that it's not very wise to post threats, especially ones involving killing someone, on a Facebook page believed to be private.

Tuason is an East Palo Alto police detective who allegedly posted a note on Facebook threatening to kill anyone he found openly carrying a handgun, even if that person was carrying it legally. The alleged note has led to an outcry from Second Amendment advocacy groups, the creation of an anti-Tuason Facebook group, and an internal police investigation.

Under California law, it's generally legal for residents to carry handguns openly, as long as they're unloaded. But Tuason allegedly posted that if he had seen someone exercising their right to bear arms, he would have "pulled the AR out and prone them all out! And if one of them made a furtive movement ... 2 weeks off!!!"

Facebook thread allegedly includes comments from East Palo Alto police detective Rod Tuason. Kevinthomason.blogspot.com

That appears to be a reference to two weeks of desk duty following an investigation of an officer for discharging a weapon.

In a telephone interview, East Palo Alto Police Capt. Carl Estelle said the alleged Facebook comments are not "reflective of our department or any policies or procedures that we have" and an investigation into the matter is under way. Until then, Estelle said, Tuason remains on active duty.

Estelle downplayed the post, saying it was a private conversation not intended to be public. It was on, he said, "a personal Web page that (Tuason) believed, and I'm not defending the words or the officer, but from what I do understand the officer believed it was his private Web page."

He also suggested that the screen snapshot (at right) that has circulated was altered to make Tuason look bad. "No Facebook or Internet Web site is going to be 100 percent accurate," Estelle said. "I don't know if you believe that or not, but that's my own personal belief."

Jason Davis, an attorney representing the nonprofit Calguns Foundation, wrote a letter Friday to the police department, saying:

This, at its simplest, is political hate speech towards the community to which Detective Tuason is duty-bound to protect. It is an abhorrent and vile insight into the mindset of one East Palo Alto's own detectives regarding on-duty activities. It is chilling to contemplate what could happen if Detective Tuason encountered citizens exercising their fundamental civil rights to openly carry in a lawful manner within the City of East Palo Alto, as one Redwood City man did on January 28th. Like the allegations of corruption that left the East Palo Alto Police Department with a tarnished reputation just a few months ago, this vivid and graphic imagery of police misconduct will be hard to dispel...

To that end, The Calguns Foundation, on behalf of its East Palo Alto members, requests an official apology from the East Palo Alto Police Department for the conduct of its own detective regarding on-duty activities. We demand that your department update their training procedures and policies to include training on the lawfulness of the open carry of firearms in California, training on how to properly and lawfully deal with the burgeoning citizenry that will continue to exercise their civil rights in East Palo Alto, as well as other firearms-related issues. Should immediate voluntary corrective training not be implemented, every available course of action will be used to address this infirmity.

Davis said on Tuesday evening that he has not received a response from the East Palo Alto police department.

Some Second Amendment advocates in the San Francisco Bay Area have been organizing open-carry events, including at local coffee shops, where law-abiding gun owners show up with handguns in belt holsters (and video cameras to record cops engaging in any unlawful harassment or intimidation). Documents obtained from the Sunnyvale, Calif., police department suggest that law enforcement officers monitor open-carry Web sites and discussion groups and have been drawing up standard procedures to deal with people carrying a handgun on their hip.

Even though police may not like it, openly carrying unloaded handguns is legal in California, with a few exceptions such as when the firearm is within 1,000 feet of a school or in a government building. Carrying a concealed weapon, however, does require a permit from the local sheriff, which is not always forthcoming; a federal lawsuit filed last year in Sacramento seeks to change that.

 

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