A man who sued police in Colorado Springs, Colo., for violating his Second Amendment rights has reportedly won more than $23,000 from the city, as local officers apparently did not know it was legal to “open carry” firearms at public parks.
The saga of James Sorensen began in July 2012 at a homosexual-pride festival, just one day after the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 people dead and 70 others injured.
He was openly sporting a handgun on his hip, which prompted police to take him into custody.
Sorensen’s arrest was caught on camera by his partner, who documented the discussion with officers who at one point threatened Sorensen with violence. (Watch raw video of the arrest below:)
“Put your hands in the air,” an officer ordered Sorensen.
“Negative, sergeant,” he replied.
“Put your hands in the air,” the officer again stated.
“Negative, sergeant,” repeated Sorensen.
“You’re about to get the sh– kicked out of you,” the officer warned.
Over the course of his encounter with police, Sorensen can be seen on the video asserting his constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
“This is against the law! This is against … my Second Amendment rights, sergeant,” he exclaimed.
“Then hire an attorney when you get done with it,” was the officer’s response.
At one point, Sorensen actually phoned police headquarters, hoping to find an officer who knew it was legal to carry a gun in public.
“I need a real officer,” he said on the phone.
He later added: “This is bogus. I can’t wait to get this into court. This is bullsh–.”
KUSA-TV in Denver reported the four sergeants and three officers involved were simply unaware it’s legal to open carry in city parks and has been since gun laws changed statewide in 2003.
Authorities blamed the mistake on the criminal manual or “cheat sheet” that officers carry which, at the time of the incident, said it was still illegal in Colorado Springs to open carry in a city park.
The station found the city’s settlement of $23,500 with Sorensen through an open-records request, but Sorensen said a confidentiality clause precluded his further comment.
That clause read in part:
“Plaintiff recognizes and agrees that this confidentiality provision was a significant inducement for City Defendants to enter into this Agreement. … Any violation of this section shall be considered a material breach of this Agreement, and Plaintiff will be subject to repayment to City Defendants of the consideration set forth herein without restatement of the claims.”
In previous interviews with local news stations, Sorensen said, “They had the gall to say, ‘Ignorance of the law is no excuse,’ and yet they are the ones that are ignorant of the law.”
“We decided to file suit because we want to better protect our rights,” he explained, “and make sure everyone knows they can’t just treat citizens like crap.”
He told KRDO-TV: “I just hope people will do more to protect their rights instead of letting people just walk all over them.”
In the wake of the settlement, KUSA spoke with Joseph Sandoval, a professor of criminal justice at Metro State University and a former police officer, who noted Sorensen is very fortunate to be alive.
“A situation like this could turn very grave,” Sandoval told the station.
“If James would have resisted to the point of pulling his weapon on a police officer, there may have been a fatal mistake.”