Civil Liberties

'I Should Blast You in the Mouth Right Now'

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A reader points out a police dashboard video posted by Ohioans for Concealed Carry that vividly illustrates some of the problems with the state's requirement that people with carry permits "promptly" announce that they have a weapon if they are stopped by a cop. In this case, two officers in Canton pull up behind a car to investigate what they think is solicitation of a prostitute. The driver, William E. Bartlett, repeatedly attempts to notify them that he is legally carrying a handgun, holding out his permit for them to see, and he is repeatedly silenced or interrupted. When Bartlett finally is able to say "I have a CCW," the officer near him, Patrolman Daniel Harless, panics, grabs the gun, and goes off on an extended, adrenaline-fueled, profanity-filled tirade that must be heard to be believed, telling the disarmed, handcuffed man that his failure to promptly report the gun shows he is too stupid and irresponsible to have a CCW permit and would have justified a swiftly administered death penalty:

I should blast you in the mouth right now….I'm close to caving in your head….I tell you what I should have done. As soon as I saw your gun, I should have taken two steps back, pulled my Glock 40, and just put 10 bullets in your ass and let you drop. And I wouldn't have lost any sleep. Do you understand me? He [his partner] would have been a nice witness as I executed you because you're stupid.

In the most comical moment, Harless expresses doubt that Bartlett, who has been holding out his CCW permit for the officers to see since he was stopped, has a permit at all. He goes scrounging through Bartlett's personal effects and car, looking for the permit, which Bartlett is still holding in his hand as he sits handcuffed in the police cruiser.

According to an update added today, "Canton Police announced Thursday that the officer was relieved of all duties in June following an internal investigation complaint filed in this matter." Even if we assume/pray that Harless is unusually hotheaded, the encounter, which occurred on June 8, shows how difficult it can be to comply with the CCW notification requirement, which is in any event open to interpretation. (How prompt is "prompt"?) Ohioans for Concealed Carry argues that the rule, violation of which can result in arrest and loss of the permit, "has substantial 1st, 4th, and 5th amendment problems."

Since 2000, The Canton Repository reports, the police department's internal affairs unit has investigated 16 complaints against Harless, a former Marine and Ohio native who came to Canton in 1996 after working as a police officer in Virginia for four years. "Obviously," says Bill Adams, president of the Canton Police Patrolmen's Association, "whatever transpired on that video is an isolated incident."