On Sunday, May 16th 2010 around 19:00 hours, I entered Yale Billiards in Wallingford, CT at 950 Yale Avenue. I was with my girlfriend Anna Filipkowska. I was wearing my Glock 23 in an outside the waistband holster on my right hip and I had two spare magazines on my back. I was wearing cargo shorts and my blue CCDL t-shirt. My firearm was uncovered as were my magazines in accordance with Connecticut state law since I have a valid permit to carry a firearm.
We talked with the girl up front and paid for the use of a table. We set up at our table and proceeded to play pool. Our table was against the back wall of the establishment. There were at least 40 people in the pool hall. We had no trouble entering the establishment and received no comments. We noticed no concern in the looks we received and felt pretty comfortable.
After playing pool (badly) for about 20-30 minutes, a man quietly approached me. He identified himself as the owner of Yale Billiards. He was polite and professional and did not seem angry, alarmed or unhappy. He simply had a concern of my firearm being exposed. As he explained, he was not aware that it was legal to openly carry a firearm in Connecticut. I informed him it was legal and I handed him some literature that I carry at all time to help educate the public to the laws regarding the carry of a firearm (and potentially explain things to law enforcement if needed) . I told the owner that he had the right to ask me to leave and that we would do so peacefully and quietly if he asked. He had asked me if I would conceal instead, and I told him that was not an option and that I would be happy to leave instead. He didn’t seem to have an issue with the open carry but was concerned about allowing illegal behavior in his establishment. He told us to continue to play pool and that he would go check out what I gave to him and asked if I would mind if he were to ask the Wallingford Police Department about the legality. I told him I had no problem with that. Everything went calmly, quietly, politely and professional on both sides.
I don’t believe the owner was at all upset with me and I was not at all upset with the owner. The owner walked away and stopped to talk to someone in the middle of the room. Anna and I continued to play pool as we were doing before. We took about 1 or 2 more turns when a large man in a New York Yankees jersey who appeared very hostile and aggressive came charging towards me from across the room. I had not previously noticed this man and I had no idea who he was. He came up to me and got right in my face. Very loudly, he shouted “Are you going to conceal that? You need to conceal that! If you don’t conceal that I will call the police!” motioning towards my firearm. I felt threatened by his irrational and unreasonable actions. He was inside my personal space and I moved my body to try and position my firearm outside of his reach. I had a pool stick in my hand that I was trying to put down because I didn’t want anyone to get the impression I was waving it around or anything. Things were happening too fast though and I suspect I didn’t get as far along with either of these ideas as I would have liked to. During his verbal assault, I could only reply “Are you the owner?” and “Who are you?”. I believed I had already met the owner, who was still within sight and seemed bewildered by this behavior. I was trying to figure out if this new person was employed there, or was law enforcement or what was going on. He would not answer me. He only got louder and more irate. I backed away and he started walking around the hall yelling to everyone things like “He cannot carry that here because you serve alcohol” and other legal misinformation. He then went towards the front and left my range of vision.
At this point, the owner shook off his own shock and walked towards me and I looked to him and Anna and said “I think we better leave here so we don’t cause you any further disruptions, we will go deal with the police outside”. I had never seen this kind of reaction to my lawful open carry of a firearm and I was a bit confused. I certainly didn’t want to see this man’s business interrupted any more than it had already been by this confused aggressor. The owner agreed and seemed somewhat relieved that he didn’t have to make issue of this with us and that we already understood. We picked up our things, racked the balls back up, put our pool sticks in the rack where they came from, and walked to the front desk. The owner joined us there and we handed our balls back in. I noticed the aggressor was now standing in front of the door of the pool hall blocking our exit. I recall Anna even said this to me as we were approaching the door “Oh god, now he is blocking the door”. We continued to go towards the door, but I was now concerned there would be some other altercation. I simply wanted to get outside where less people would be in jeopardy should this unknown aggressor become more irate. He appeared to be on the phone and I assumed it was with the police. I was fine with this since I knew I had broken no laws and he had. I did fear that he would grow more aggressive if the police did what they should be trained to do and inform him that open carry in Connecticut is legal and that he was the only one breaking a law. This would be better handled outside with police present. As it turns out, at the last minute, the man moved outside leaving the door unblocked. I was able to see him walk out to the parking lot where he seemed to be getting more agitated with the operator he was talking with. I suspect he thought I would try to flee the scene, but I had no intentions of doing so. Again, I was not in violation of any laws and he was, I had nothing at all to hide from. We got outside, where I kept an eye on the aggressor who was pacing back and forth in the parking lot. I was concerned he might do something dangerous since he had (for no seeming reason) exclaimed to the entire pool hall that he has a pistol permit as well. This to me implies he might have a firearm, and clearly he is not someone who is rational and aware enough of the laws for me to trust with one.
Fortunately he seemed far more into his outlandish 911 call than with us. We took a seat on the bench directly outside the door of the pool hall. Within a very short amount of time we were joined by Seth T.. He was a player from inside who had seen what went down. I could tell immediately he was on our side and not at all worried or threatened by us. His first comment was (motioning towards the aggressor) “You can’t fix stupid.”. I agreed and laughed. The comic relief was much appreciated. He asked me various questions about open carry and CT law, and we had a good discussion about the legality of what I was doing. He mentioned that the aggressor was not a regular I got the feeling he was not looked favorably upon. I got the impression this guy had caused problems before.
I asked Anna to retrieve another copy of the literature explaining the laws of carry so that we could make sure the police were aware of the laws. Our best copy had been left with the owner of Yale Billiards. She went to the car which was a bit to the right of where the aggressor was pacing. She got the documents and sat back down next to me on the bench. The aggressor now went over and took photos of my car and the license plate. This was odd and I felt an over stepping of boundaries considering I was sitting quietly in plain sight of him on the bench. I was obviously not looking to leave or flee.
Within moments we had somewhere around 6 people outside hanging out around us asking questions and voicing sympathy with what went down. No one seemed very happy with the aggressor. The owner came outside at various points to check on things, but still did not necessarily seem unhappy with us. I am sure he was unhappy with the situation, but I am sure he understood that we had not caused the situation, the aggressor had. We asked him if it was alright that we wait on the benches in front of his door, and he said it would be fine.
I am not sure how long the police took to arrive, but it seemed to be about 15 minutes or so. When we did start to see them, they made a perimeter around the large parking complex in front of the building and slowly moved closer. At some point I saw the aggressor disappear from site and I assume he was talking to an officer. The people near me on the bench and I were still having a friendly discussion and we were a bit shocked to see such an overreaction to my complete and friendly cooperation, but we continued to sit quietly. The people made it clear they were there to let the police know what was really going down and not let the aggressor get the only word. I appreciated the support.
The police were now taking up cover behind cars and near trees. I tried numerous times to wave them down in a friendly manner and try to let them know I was not hostile or anything else and that I was the one they were looking for. They ignored me.
At least 6 police officers finally approached where we were sitting. They immediately told everyone else but Anna and I to leave despite there being no hostile actions on anyone’s part. I am not aware of why they would assume any danger or anything else to be present. One of the officers (the sergeant at the scene) talked first and told me to stay still and not move my hands or make any sudden movements. I of course complied. He reached down, unholstered my Glock and proceeded to unload it. I found this to be a bit dangerous. We could have handed the entire firearm over still in the holster so that he could unload it somewhere where there wasn’t a group of people and without the possibility of a negligent discharge.
I was still sitting during this. I was now asked to stand up where Officer Garcia immediately placed me in handcuffs. I did not resist at all, but I did start asking what I was being detained for and what the charge was that they planned on arresting me for since they had now made it clear that they would not deal with this in a rational manner. Their reply was that I was carrying a firearm in the open and that I had caused an issue and that it would be for breach of peace. I told them (correctly) that open carry is not illegal in Connecticut and that I was not the person who had caused a disturbance. I mentioned several times that the problem causer was the guy in the NY Yankees jersey still pacing around the parking lot.
They ignored me. Whenever I got the chance I would ask another officer if he realized that open carry was legal and that they needed to understand the law before making a false arrest. Every officer on scene that I talked to told me “Open carry is definitely not legal in Connecticut”. I could see I was not going to be getting anywhere. It was obvious I was going to be arrested because the officers were not at all aware of basic firearms laws in the State of Connecticut. I even had at least one officer jokingly ask me when I thought the law had changed. He laughed when I told him the law had always allowed open carry.
Just before I was handcuffed I had tried to hand them the same information I had handed the owner. That paperwork was thrown to the ground and stepped on by the officers. I made reference to it multiple times and told them they could learn a lot about the laws and avoid this wrongful arrest if they would just read what I had handed them. No one wanted to listen to anything. Clearly they felt I was a criminal and should be treated poorly because I had a firearm on my hip.During the time I was in handcuffs and before they transported me a couple of odd boundary violations occurred. One of them was when the officers continually asked me if I had firearms in my car. I repeatedly told them “No, but it is none of your business and not relevant to the topic at hand.” since both myself and Anna are permit holders it would make no difference if we did possess more firearms or not. This was a very odd request. I could not figure out what relevance the officers were using to relate my open carry with the possible presence of firearms in my car. Later, Officer Garcia would ask me if I had more firearms at home. I refused to answer that question as well. It again was not a relevant question. I would also argue that it was not appropriate either. I spoke to Officer Garcia about this on the way to the PD when they transported me. I asked him why he had asked me this and he said “Just polite conversation” and that “I looked like someone who had a lot of firearms”. I informed him that the question made me uncomfortable, especially since they were essentially sending Anna away unarmed with a violent person lurking in the parking lot. That brings me to the other ridiculous boundary violation I witnessed. While I was in handcuffs, the police officers decided to ID and search Anna and her belongings. I am not sure where they got the idea to do this, but since Anna had nothing to hide she did consent. Looking back we have decided that she probably could and should have stood up to them since they had no right to embarrass her like that.
When they asked her for ID, she handed them her pistol permit. The police officer told her that was unacceptable and requested her driver’s license instead. Why the police felt a state issued pistol permit is not a valid ID is beyond me. I advised her that next time she would probably do better to stick to verbally giving them her name and date of birth and not consenting to any searches of any kind. They deserved nothing further from her being a simple bystander. Especially since with all the ridiculous boundary violations, they never even bothered to ask her about the actual incident or get a statement. I was also questioned as to why I have a New Hampshire permit to carry, which I refused to answer with any kind of structured answer since it had nothing to do with the current situation. I then had an officer (Officer Garcia I believe) ask me if I had ever been to Ohio. I replied yes (there are not a whole lot of states in this country I could say no to), I was there on business a few times. He then accused me of some kind of domestic violence arrest in front of everyone. I have never been arrested in Ohio or anywhere else for that matter (well, up until this arrest). Certainly not in Ohio. Certainly never for domestic violence. I asked several times for some kind of proof of this or where I could get the same information they pulled up. I was replied to with “You did it, you should know about it.”. Again I was treated like a criminal because I lawfully carried a firearm. The officers would not even answer whether that had come back with just my name or whether they had run my license. I still have no clarification on this, but I know it to not be truthful. Perhaps this was some kind of intimidation tactic? This whole fiasco lasted what seemed like 15 or 20 minutes. At that point the sergeant on scene who had taken my firearm instructed Officer Garcia to transport me for Breach of Peace. Officer Garcia pulled his cruiser around and loaded me in the back. I may not be experienced with riding in the backs of police cars, but this back seat was tiny. I would expect more legroom in a Toyota Prius. We drove to the Police Department, where Officer Garcia assisted me out of the car and into the booking area. He removed my handcuffs, which was a relief since they were bruising my wrists up pretty badly. Officer Garcia proceeded with booking me. He asked me several paper work questions that I cooperatively answered. He read me my rights and asked me to waive my rights and make a statement, telling me that not doing so “would really hurt my chances in court”. I laughed and informed him he should probably keep that legal advice to himself. I told him that before I would make a statement, I needed to know if I was being charged and if so, what I was being charged with. Officer Garcia informed me I was now being charged with Disorderly Conduct. I refused to waive my rights, but I did initial his form that stated I had been read my Miranda rights. I saw no value in stating my side of the story if they were charging me anyway, but expressed curiosity about the change in charges. I was informed by Officer Garcia that it was because I was not being arrested for the open carry of my firearm now, but instead for creating a disturbance at the pool hall. I laughed and told him that was news to me. I had not created any disturbance at the pool hall, but instead the aggressor in the parking lot had. He ignored me. I was fingerprinted and mug shots were taken. I cooperated with both. I made sure to find out that my arresting officer was in fact an Officer Flood. I did not recognize his name from the scene, but later I would (vaguely) remember his face from the scene.
I was finally informed that I was going to be released on a promise to appear and that they would let me go after Officer Garcia brought me upstairs. I walked upstairs with him where I got to see Anna for a minute and then went right back into the office. In the office was Officer Garcia, the Sergeant and Officer Flood. On the table was my Glock, my three magazines and a bag full of my ammunition. Why they felt the need to unload every round from every magazine, I have no idea. They informed me that I would be leaving with my firearm and my property. I found this interesting and used the opportunity to ask what would happen if I reholstered it and open carried out of the police department. I was told that nothing would happen and that open carry was legal. The sergeant even went so far as to say “We really need to get more education on this.”. I was a bit surprised with the completely different mood and attitude amongst the officers in the room. They were no longer openly hostile and treating me like a criminal. Now they were friendly and polite. I took this as meaning they realized how wrong they were. I am not sure why they didn’t just drop the charge altogether due to this, but I can only assume they weren’t not aware of how to make this situation ‘right’ again.
I asked the sergeant what I needed to do about pressing the same disorderly conduct charge on the actual aggressor. He informed me I could make a written statement and they would submit it to the court who would decide if a warrant would be issued for his arrest. I agreed to this, but said I would like to do this the following night. I had enough going on that night and Anna was waiting and likely worried about me. The sergeant left the room and Officer Flood explained the property form and had me sign it to say I was being given back my property. The Sergeant returned with a Lieutenant. The Lieutenant was not polite or friendly like the other officers. He was actively angry. He informed me that I would not be pressing charges on the aggressor because I had not called the police at the scene (already one of my only regrets from the night). I informed him that I had done nothing wrong since open carry was legal and that I was unclear of why I was being charged. His explanation basically consisted of the incident being my fault because I was carrying a firearm openly. I disagreed because I am not aware of any law that states that carrying a firearm waives your rights to not be verbally assaulted in front of everyone in a pool hall. The Lieutenant loudly informed me that he ‘didn’t want to hear my lawyer talk’. I laughed and decided the discussion was not going anywhere since I could not believe the level of arrogance being put forth. I am not sure if this was posturing to try and defend a shaky charge or if this kind of behavior is standard policy for a person who has already had the officers from the scene admit he was right. At this point the Lieutenant decided to launch into a tirade about how if he didn’t care about what I was saying and that if I carried a firearm onto a school’s property I would be arrested. I briefly questioned this and tried to mention that he was comparing two different things. Carry on K-12 property is not legal, while open carry is. He didn’t want to hear it. I don’t know if he truly doesn’t understand basic Connecticut firearm laws or if he was just trying to intimidate me out of open carrying. After all, his theory seemed to be that if I open carried a firearm again I could be arrested for any reason since I apparently would be waiving all of my rights. Very dangerous levels of ignorance to the law prevailed in this conversation. I gladly took the opportunity to stop talking to him and I turned back to the officers. Officer Flood escorted Anna and I out of the police department and handed me my firearm and property in the parking lot. As I left I was sure to shake the hands of all the officers present and thank them for their help. I figured they had done enough to make sure that they fixed their ignorance and their wrongful arrest. It was pretty clear the Lieutenant was the only one in the room who believed in the charge. I can only assume he is the one who insisted on the charge. After all, he wanted me to be thankful for issuing me a promise to appear for being arrested for a lawful activity.
In the parking lot, we said goodbye to Officer Flood and I shook his hand as well. I told him I was sorry that this was going to turn out badly for him. He replied that he knew and that he was ready for it. We departed the police department after we were able to break all the zip ties off my Glock that were holding the slide open and load the magazines that were unloaded for no reason.