Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 12, 2010

Officer's Facebook comments anger gun-rights groups

East Palo Alto police detective advocated beating and killing open-carrying gun advocates

by Sue Dremann

Comments allegedly made by an East Palo Alto detective on his Facebook page that advocated beating and potentially killing members of a pro-gun-rights group have sparked a debate about the right to publicly bear arms.

Rod Tuason, an East Palo Alto detective, allegedly posted comments in response to a friend's post that pro-gun Open Carry members should display their unloaded weapons in cities such as Oakland, Richmond and East Palo Alto — and not limit themselves to "hoity-toity" cities.

The comments from Tuason's page, which were copied and re-posted on an online forum called "Calguns.net," suggested beating the gun carriers to the ground and shooting them if they made "a furtive movement."

"Haha we had one guy last week try to do it! He got proned out and reminded where he was at and that turds will jack him for his gun in a heartbeat!" the post read, commenting on an incident in which an Open Carry member was removed from the Mi Pueblo Food Center in East Palo Alto Jan. 27.

"We gave him a real quick reminder how things will go bad real quick!" he added.

In response to a friend's post, Tuason continued: "Sounds like you had someone practicing their 2nd amendment rights last night! Should've pulled the AR out and prone them all out! And if one of them made a furtive movement ... 2 weeks off!!!" The final comment implied being placed on administrative leave following a shooting incident.

More than 500 outraged posters on the pro-gun Calguns.net forum commented on Tuason's remarks. Many vowed to flood East Palo Alto with protest letters and to march through the city.

"Saying that you will enjoy the shooting of an innocent and use a pretext — 'furtive motions' — to justify the slaying, is an indication of sociopathy. ... He has a badge and a gun, he is aware that his position as a police officer makes it possible for him to justify acts of homicide under certain situations. ... Such individuals should be dealt with harshly," a Peninsula resident wrote.

Tuason could not be reached for comment. He is a Calguns member, however, according to Gene Hoffman, president and CEO of the Calguns Foundation, a civil-defense and civil-litigation group dedicated to protecting Second Amendment rights. Tuason has apologized in the online forum to its members, he said.

Hoffman said he thinks Tuason's comments are sad and were made in jest.

"As a public servant, they were out of line, quite frankly," he said.

Donald Kilmer, a San Jose family law and civil rights attorney who has represented law-enforcement officers and as well as prosecuted police misconduct cases, said that Tuason may have jeopardized his career with his comments.

If the detective were to be involved in a shooting, and his motives were to be questioned, his past comments could lead people to believe he acted intentionally instead of accidentally.

Kilmer cited the recent case of BART officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot and killed a man in a station last year and later claimed he thought he was firing his Taser.

"If the BART officer said on his Facebook page, 'I can't wait to plug one of these little punks,' then he could be charged with murder. You never know what would happen if a few weeks from now this East Palo Alto officer is involved in a shooting," he said.

Tuason's comments are exactly why the Unloaded Open Carry (UOC) movement is a bad idea, Kilmer said.

On the street, where police officers face constant danger from criminals, an officer won't know the good guys from the bad guys walking around with a gun on the hip.

"A police officer can't get immune to that," he said.

East Palo Alto Police spokesman Capt. Carl Estelle agreed.

"We have over 1,200 ShotSpotter activations a year," he said, referring to a city-wide system that detects when a gun has fired. "We just got a conviction of a cop killer (Alberto Alvarez) who committed a cold-blooded murder of a police officer. To carry guns in East Palo Alto just might not be the smartest thing to do even though under the Second Amendment they can, with some conditions.

"That's not a threat to anybody — we don't mean it as a threat. We have to be careful about anybody carrying a weapon out there. Our officers don't have the time and convenience to assume that a gun is unloaded or that they are Open Carry members," he said.

But Estelle also said police officers are held to a higher standard than the general populace in terms of their behavior.

"Off-duty behavior can affect and reflect on the department. We have to behave a certain way on or off duty. We are held to different standards," he said.

Carrying an unloaded handgun in a holster is not illegal in California, according to police and gun advocates.

Hoffman said the state's law for licensing of concealed weapons has caused pent-up frustration in California.

The state is one of the few remaining where issuing concealed-weapon permits is not mandatory, he said. In many major cities, including Philadelphia, Detroit, Seattle, Portland, Reno and Las Vegas, people can carry unloaded weapons openly or concealed weapons with a permit.

In the old days, open-carry was considered the noble way to carry a gun.

"I've never seen an actual bad guy carry a gun openly. It's a very rare occurrence. Most gang members you find are hiding a gun concealed under their belt," he said.

Tuason remains on duty and is not expected to be placed on administrative leave during the course of the investigation, which Estelle said would be thorough and efficient.

But the department is being cautious not to trample on the officer's First Amendment rights, Estelle said.

"The First Amendment applies to everyone but a police officer? The officer has the same rights as other individuals. We just have to be careful not to violate Second Amendment rights," he said.

Talk about it

What do you think of people carrying unloaded guns in public? Share your opinion on Town Square, the community discussion forum on Palo Alto Online.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Charleton, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Is the NRA really encouraging East Palo Alto residents to carry guns with them around town?


Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Learn more about your Second Amendment protected rights next month, right here in Palo Alto!

Web Link

Web Link

qq


Posted by JPINFV, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 12, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Let's see how quickly the "first amendment right" to make death threats vanishes if the comment was "Should've pulled the AR out and prone out a bunch of cops! And if one of them made a furtive movement ... 2 weeks of black bands!!!" instead of threatening to murder law abiding citizens. Last time I checked, the first amendment wasn't limitless.


Posted by FactChecker, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2010 at 9:30 pm

"beating" - this was not mentioned, nor implied by Tuason.
"More than 500 outraged posters on the pro-gun Calguns.net forum commented on Tuason's remarks." - 500 was likely the number of comments, not posters of comments. As I type this, the number of comments in the thread is 755, and was probably closer to 500 at the time this article was written.
"The state is one of the few remaining where issuing concealed-weapon permits is not mandatory, he said. In many major cities, including Philadelphia, Detroit, Seattle, Portland, Reno and Las Vegas, people can carry unloaded weapons openly or concealed weapons with a permit." - instead of unloaded weapons, this should read loaded weapons. Unloaded open carry is particular to CA only. Unloaded instead of loaded was either a slip of the tongue or keyboard.

The First Amendment shall not apply to criminal threats and advocacy. While Tuason's comments are probably not chargeable under California Penal Code Section 422, they are closer to violating federal civil rights laws, namely: Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242, Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241, and Title 42, U.S.C., Section 14141.

Complaints to the FBI have allegedly been submitted in this case.

*Disclaimer: I am a Calguns member, a former journalist and editor.


Posted by Follow-up, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2010 at 9:50 pm

The thread on Calguns.net has 758 posts so far and nearly 66,000 views.

Web Link


Posted by presumed guilty until proven innocent, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I am not happy with the comment made by the detective, ive seen it all over the web and news site,i personally think he was just being a smartass but this just shows to me how arrogant most law enforcement are, i still respect the police and wont think negatively against the general police population, but there is always a bad apple in a bunch, no matter what group it is, i dont think he should be fired, but they need to give him a desk job so they dont have to worry about any situation that might arise in the future. I am a minority if anyone is wondering and ive been proned and told to lay on the ground with guns drawn on me dozens of times, i get harassed by police over and over again but i got used to it, which is something i shouldnt have to do , but thats the world we are living in and i live with it. for every dozen cops that have harassed me there is one cop who actually showed me some decent respect and that one is who i appreciate. doing their job as safely as they can without overstepping their boundaries. Because of this i will now open carry and excercise my 2nd amendment rights.


Posted by Charleton, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2010 at 10:07 pm

The NRA is getting cops killed.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Legal or not, this sounds like a tragedy about to happen.


Posted by Charleton, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm

What the cop talked about is no different from what cops do to African-Americans every day, even when they are not suspected of any crime or any evidence that a crime had even occurred.

Courts have ruled that police have a wide latitude to use force when they feel their lives are endangered. If I saw someone walking around with a gun, I would certainly feel endangered. The intent or motives of the person with the gun are irrelevant.


Posted by David, a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2010 at 12:15 am

Responding to Charleton:

Police can not use force if they merely feel their lives are endangered; they must be able to articulate reasons to believe the subject is both armed and dangerous. Absent other suspicious behavior, somebody walking down the street with a gun on their hip does not provide cause for detainment or the use of force.

This is obvious: police can't use force against someone who is simply exercising a constitutionally-protected right.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2010 at 1:54 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Police have no affirmative duty to protect you.
Dial 911 and die.


Posted by isms are showing, a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 13, 2010 at 4:57 am

Wow..one cop posts something, and i read a post that says "this confirms that most cops are arrogant" and "this is how cops treat african-americans every day"...

Ok, folks, substitute "cop" with "black"

one black guy writes something scary on a faceboook..and suddenly someone posts "this confirms how arrogant blacks are" and "this is how blacks treat cops every day"..

watch it, your "isms" are showing your ignorance..


Posted by Charleton, a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

Curious that some people are right wing extremists when it comes to the police using racial profiling to harass African-Americans on the street. When it comes to harassing people carrying guns on the street, then all of a sudden they flip flop to being civil rights extremists.


Posted by John, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Funny that murder rates are near historic lows, yet, people talk as if they were at all time highs. The power of the handgun lobby at work.

Of course, murder rates could be much lower -- as much as 10 times lower in Japan, for example, or more attainably, 5 times lower in Germany.

But, at least we have lots of handguns to protect us from the UN troops occupying our streets.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Japan has a homogeneous population.
Ask any serving police officer if they are willing to leave their guns at the station when off duty, and ask any anti-gun politician if they are willing to dismiss their armed guards and rely solely on 911 to summon aid.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Tempest in a teapot. If you want to talk about a cop who deserves to be badmouthed, let's discuss Menlo Park's racist cop...ooops, I better not type his name...but let's see...he put racist screensavers I think it was, on PD computers...


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2010 at 2:16 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Define racist.


Posted by ?, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 17, 2010 at 8:03 am

This man is a detective in East Palo Alto? No wonder they never close any cases.


Posted by Mr. Ironic, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2010 at 10:48 am

Wow, I was telling yall about this 2 weeks ago.
EpA's finest at their best.


Posted by M, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

A good reminder that as a police officer, you are an officer 24/7. Your off-duty actions can and will reflect on your agency. Facebook is as public of a forum as any, it is, afterall, the internet. There could have been better ways to express his sentiments. And before anyone gets confused, I am a FIRM law enforcement supporter, and think it's a shame that the officer's comments will probably jeopardize his LE career from this point forward.

For the anti-gunners out there, let's not forget that legal guns possessed by law-abiding citizens keep criminals at bay. Firearms were sold in record numbers this past year and FBI murder statistics actually reaches record lows. Ban guns everywhere and the criminals will be the only ones armed.


Posted by sg, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2010 at 10:11 am

I think its a great a idea... If a little cop from a craigslist can carry a loaded gun/ and taser. We the people of the city should also be able to carry guns. If they got guns we should too!. If not take all guns away. Thats how it should be. We all know how weak the PAPD is. They are a joke and we all know this. Im on my way to get a .44 for my hip! In AZ and NV, everyone has a pistol on the side. So power to the people!! And as for the cops not knowing who the bad guy is if everyone has a gun, thats a stupid statement. They should be trained to assess situations and not assume everyone is a criminal. But they dont have the IQ for that one! They will probally remove this comment as this board is very biased.


Posted by factchecker ..., a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2010 at 3:54 am

John,

The murder rate has been plummeting since just before the likelihood of Obama elected became apparent and reached a near all time low in the middle of a gun buying frenzy. More guns have gone into the hands of law abiding citizens since just before Obama took office than in the previous 5 years combined. In that time the national murder rate has dropped almost 3%. In the previous 10 years it didn't decrease this much. This gives at least anecdotal evidence that, at least part of the reason for the sharp decrease in such a short period of time, is that criminals know that more citizens possess a means to defend themselves.


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