August 2, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
69°F

Gun advocates to return Saturday for open carry demonstration

An “open carry” firearm advocacy group is planning a demonstration Saturday on North Court Street in Medina’s retail business district.

Brett Pucillo, president of Ohio Carry, said he expects 20 to 30 people to advocate their Second Amendment rights during a walk at 1 p.m. that will begin outside of Dickey’s Barbeque Pit.

Pucillo said the demonstration is a follow-up to a May 7 open carry demonstration on Medina’s Public Square by two men who are members of the group but were acting alone.

Medina police officers responding to numerous 911 calls stopped the men, who were carrying a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a handgun, and asked for identification.

After initially refusing, the men handed over their driver’s licenses after an officer demanded they drop their weapons if they failed to provide IDs.

The men were allowed to continue their walk after it was determined they were not felons prohibited from having firearms.

Pucillo said Ohio law does not require the men to produce IDs and called for the larger walk in Medina to make that point.

“The purpose will be to spread education to the residents of Medina,” he said, “and to tell police that we are not breaking the laws by refusing to identify ourselves.

“If someone would say no and the officer still demanded identification that would a Fourth Amendment violation.”

Pucillo said that walking openly with a firearm does not give a police officer the reasonable suspicion needed to ask for identification.

Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci told The Gazette last month the Police Department will not get involved with the group’s Saturday demonstration.

“If you feel in this day and age that you need to carry a firearm day in and day out, go ahead and do it, but do it responsibly,” he said. “It is when you do it irresponsibly that you cause problems.”

Several legal experts from area universities interviewed by Gazette reporters said the topic of open carry is getting increasingly hard to define.

Jonathan Witmer-Rich, a law professor at Cleveland State University, said police are allowed to ask for IDs if they have reasonable suspicion a law may have been broken.

Witmer Rich said the numerous 911 calls from people who saw the two men on Public Square could justify demanding IDs.

One of the men was carrying a shotgun while the other had a holstered semi-automatic pistol and an AR-15 slung across his back.

When officers Calvin Undercoffer and David McGurk confronted the men, they initially refused to turn over their driver’s licenses or other identification to the officers.

“I asked the males for ID and they stated they did not really wish to show me their ID, that it was their right not to do so,” Undercoffer wrote in his report.

The men complied only after Undercoffer told them they would be disarmed if they didn’t.

It was only when one of the men slipped up on his age that officers said they had reasonable suspicion to demand their identification.

The report identified the men as James Purdy, 25, of Brunswick, and Micah Butcher, 25, of Grafton. Both men were sent on their way and can be seen shaking Undercoffer’s hand in a video.

Pucillo said the open carry group does not have a problem with Undercoffer demanding Purdy’s and Butcher’s IDs because Purdy gave the officer reasonable suspicion once he fumbled on his age.

But the group does have a problem with remarks Berarducci made over the phone to the group’s secretary, Mike Potting.

The group released a video on YouTube of the conversation between Potting and Berarducci.

In the recording, Potting asks Berarducci what his obligation is to provide an ID when an officer demands it.

“The officer has the authority to inquire of your identification to determine whether or not you are a prohibited person,” Berarducci told Potting.

“And do I have the right to refuse providing my ID when I am not suspected of committing a crime?” Potting asked.

“No, no, no,” Berarducci interjected, “because the alternative of that is that he can take you into custody until he can determine that you’re not a prohibited person.”

Michael Benza, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, told The Gazette that open carry advocates should always tell officers what they are doing.

“There’s a dilemma that the officers are facing,” Benza said. “Ohio is an open carry state, but just because we’re open carry doesn’t negate the ability of police to ask, ‘Hey, you have a gun. What are you doing?’

“Police have the ability to ask (the activists) if they’re exercising their Second Amendment rights or if they’re planning to shoot up a school.”

Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or adavis@medina-gazette.com.