I spent the week prior to October 8th as I usually do this time of year, working 13+ hour days putting on concerts and other events. I am an independent sound and lighting tech, and a production manager, something I have done professionally since I was in my teens. Following the latest event, I had to remove drapery and other set pieces the venue provided to the customer. It was something that had taken me all night because I wanted to be on a train fairly early Tuesday to visit my parents in Delaware, where my Pennsylvania LTCF (License To Carry Firearms) is not valid, so I have to ‘open carry’ to abide by the laws. I also prefer to wear a ‘Drop Leg’ panel for my tools as opposed to a standard tool belt, which many of you have seen me wear in the past. So, after finishing most of my work, I decided to take a nap in the office and finish cutting ropes down and sweeping after I awoke.
I woke from my two hour nap and decided to get some food at the diner which is owned by the person I was working for and a good friend of mine. (Incidentally, I also helped another good friend install most of the electrical wiring in the diner). I walked in the diner through the rear entrance as I usually do, and proceeded to serve myself coffee, as I usually do. I then proceeded out the front door to smoke a cigarette, where Sgt. Kevin Bernard of the PPD was already parked (in an illegal spot) in front of the diner, finishing a phone call in his vehicle.
The PPD routinely patronizes the diner on a daily basis, and many of their officers have seen me open carrying without any previous issues. Sgt. Bernard then exited his vehicle and entered the diner to finish his phone call, pausing along the way to exchange pleasantries with me, exclaiming about how cold and windy it had gotten. Bernard had definitely noticed my openly carried Glock 30 on his way in, but said nothing at first.
Later, he said he stopped me because he “feared for his life while he ate.” I know that if I was concerned, I would have stopped my phone conversation immediately – he did not. Sgt. Bernard entered the diner and stood in front of the dessert display while both finishing his phone call and staring intensely at my sidearm through the window; I had been surfing the internet on my phone as this happened, so my phone was already in my hand. I knew when Bernard exited the diner without making a purchase or even talking to anyone, he was going to ask about my firearm and permit, so I used my ‘Quick Camera’ button on my phone to start a video recording, which most have seen by this point.
Police in Philly are allowed to stop an open carrier and ask them for their LTCF, and also allowed the ridiculous policy of being able to remove a safely holstered weapon from someone for their ‘safety’. Knowing this, I expected Sgt. Bernard to ask me for my permit; imagine my surprise when he asked me if I was a security guard, and told me, “They told me in there, you are the security guard.” Immediately I was on the defensive, knowing he had not spoken a word to anyone inside. I told him no, and he asked for my ACT 235 card, to which I responded “What does that matter, I’m not a security guard.”
I then told Sgt. Bernard I had my PA LTCF, and held up the clear ID carrier I keep my ID and LTCF in, conveniently next to my lawyer’s card, in an effort to diffuse the situation being as he had not asked for my LTCF. Instantly, Sgt. Bernard changed his tune and tried to tell me I can’t open carry without an ‘Act 235’ card and that I was suspicious because of the knife I was carrying with my tools, which he jokingly referred to as a ‘sword’ on my hip.
At this point I realized that Sgt. Bernard is either ignorant of the laws, or has a blatant disregard of them. I am also aware that the PPD has been through training more than once in the past few years, on how to deal with ‘open carry.’ Without going over the entire video step by step, it is obvious that Sgt. Bernard is trying to goad me into admitting that I am “Moonlighting” as a security guard, either because he doesn’t like ‘open carriers’ or he needed to come up with something after calling in two other officers for ‘backup’ for such a dangerous suspect. At one point, while one of the officers and Bernard were inside the diner trying to figure out what to charge me with, the officer inside noticed I was recording with my phone and ran outside to grab it – this is when the video stopped. Sgt. Bernard told the officer to delete the video, an order I found out later the officer did not follow. The officer pretended to delete the video, shoved the phone back into my pocket, and returned inside to finish debating with Bernard.
Thirty minutes passed before the two finally emerged from the diner. Sgt. Bernard then informed me, “This is what I’m gonna do… You wanna record this part smart ass?” to which I replied, “Yes.” This infuriated Sgt. Bernard who said, “Well, now I’m gonna take your gun, take your permit, and issue you a summary offense for having a knife.” This is clearly illegal, but Sgt. Bernard was done being told what he can and cannot do by a mere citizen, so I told him he would need to take me to the station if he was going to do something so clearly out of spite, and do it in front of the whole station. The officer that transported me to the station made a point to tell me that he, “Didn’t want anything to do with this,” but was mum during the actual incident.
I arrived at the station, still not having been searched fully, or told that I was being arrested, and waited another 20 minutes for Sgt. Bernard, who had stopped for food. Sgt. Bernard arrived, obviously agitated, throwing papers and slamming things on the table, all the while complaining about how, “this little shit pushed the issue, making [him] miss [his] lunch.” Bernard then spent over an hour looking for the city code book, just to be able to find the crime I committed. Once Bernard found the book, he spent the next hour fighting with a computerized system for reports, complaining about the new operating system of his iPhone, taking a 15 minute break to eat, and asking his superiors how to fill out the reports. I assumed this happened because my situation wasn’t a normal legal process.
Two hours after my illegal detention, or kidnapping if you will, Sgt. Bernard handed me my paperwork to sign, and told me I could get all my property back, but now I had to deal with the “consequences” because I was a “prick.” He also regaled me with tales of how gun-friendly he was – about how he is a “Lifetime NRA Member” and supports the second amendment, but that, “You don’t need to be walking around like dirty harry.”
I left the station, and have since been making moves to have my stolen property returned to me. I have since gone to court and have been found not guilty of the charge of ‘carrying cutting weapons on the highway.’ I have filed a petition to return property with the Philadelphia Court, and am awaiting an answer about getting my firearm and knives back (one knife was a high end Stryder).
My LTCF Permit was also taken, but not revoked, However, I have to go through the process of obtaining a permit all over again, because the state of PA has no provisions for re-issuing lost or stolen permits. I hear the process for return of property in Philadelphia takes up to a year, and I will most likely have to appeal the decision even though I was convicted of no crime.
– Edward Yealey