Thursday, May 7, 2009

Racine, Wisconsin Bicyclists Defends Himself From Robbers

Racine, Wisconsin

From the May 6, 2009 Racine County Journal Times:
RACINE — Four teens knocked a 42-year-old Racine man from his bike Friday night. He thought they were going to rob him.

The man pulled a Smith and Wesson revolver from his side holster, pointed it at the sky and yelled, “Gun!”

The four suspects ran, and the man flagged down a Racine police officer.

The incident will perhaps mark the first time a new opinion allowing open carry of firearms is put to the test here, as it conflicts with another state statute that makes it illegal to possess a gun within 1,000 feet of a school, if not on private property.

The Racine man involved, who asked not to be named and declined to comment on the alleged robbery attempt when contacted by The Journal Times, was assaulted in the 1100 block of Grand Avenue, which is within 1,000 feet of Walden School, 1012 Center St.

Police did not arrest the man. After he was treated for head and wrist injuries at the scene by Racine rescue, officers escorted the man home and returned his gun to him.

But that doesn’t mean charges won’t be filed against the man, and police are questioning how such situations should be handled in the future.

“It’s difficult with the way the laws are written to carry (a gun) and not get into trouble,” said police spokesman Lt. Jim Dobbs.

He said the new open carry ruling will probably prompt more and more people to wear firearms, but in many places in the city, even stepping off their front porch would mean they are breaking the law.

“People will break the law inadvertently,” Dobbs said. “We want clarification from the state on what we should be doing.”

Last month, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen sent out a memo saying openly wearing a holstered gun is not illegal. While Wisconsin law states a person cannot legally carry a concealed weapon, it does not address carrying a firearm in plain sight.

The opinion has created many questions, now including the apparent conflict between the existing statute over possessing a firearm near a school.
UPDATE: From the May 15, 2009 Racine Journal Times:
RACINE — The armed bicyclist who scared off a group of teens he believed were trying to rob him earlier this month will not be charged, the Racine County District Attorney’s Office said Friday.

In a letter to the 42-year-old Racine man, who has asked not to be identified, District Attorney Mike Nieskes wrote, “After speaking with the investigating officer on this matter, I have decided it would not be in the greater interest of justice in the community to charge you with violation of Wisconsin Statute regarding gun free zones.”

According to police reports, the man was riding his bicycle in the 1100 block of Grand Avenue on May 1 when he was knocked from his bicycle by four teens. The man told police he thought the group was trying to rob him, so he pulled out the revolver he was openly carrying in a side holster. Reports said he pointed the gun at the sky and yelled, “Gun!”

The group of teens fled and the man flagged down a Racine police officer. During the assault, the man suffered a wrist injury. He was treated at the scene by Racine rescue.

Police did not arrest the man. They escorted him home and returned his gun to him.

However, the incident raised questions from law enforcement because the man was armed within a 1,000 feet of a school, which is illegal under state statute. The current law conflicts with a recent opinion by the state Attorney General’s Office which said it is legal to openly carry a firearm.

In his letter, Nieskes said the decision not to charge the man was based on the recent determination of the attorney general, along with the man’s lack of prior criminal record and no showing of irresponsible use of the firearm. “I don’t believe it would be appropriate to charge you,” Nieskes wrote. “I will presume that you understand that despite the announcement by the Attorney General for the State of Wisconsin regarding open carry, that you and all other individuals, a notable exception being on-duty police officers, are barred from possessing a firearm in certain circumstances and place.”

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