October 23, 2013

Assault rifle carrier: Portland police got it wrong

Carlos Reed says a class project in which he planned a fake terrorist attack got him in trouble.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

When police started probing the background of Carlos Reed, who was found walking in Portland at 1 a.m. with an assault rifle and body armor, they found his Facebook page showing a college class project about a terrorist attack at Hadlock Field.

click image to enlarge

Carlos Reed says he never would have carried an assault rifle in public had he known how much trouble it would cause him.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Carlos Reed speaks with a reporter Monday at his Portland apartment. He says he posed no threat while carrying an assault rifle during a walk in Portland in September.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The project for his Introduction to Homeland Security class described how he and two other terrorists, bent on revenge and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, would set off a roadside bomb near an oil storage facility in South Portland. As police and firefighters responded, a sniper would fire on baseball fans at a Sea Dogs game from across Interstate 295.

Police submitted the image and other material to the District Attorney’s Office, which obtained an arrest warrant for Reed on a charge of a threatening display of a weapon. The image appeared in his court file, which was created after he was charged and after authorities sought to have him hospitalized involuntarily as a danger to himself or others.

Reed, 27, says it shows how police took things out of context or exaggerated to support their view that he is a threat.

“They’re trying to make me out to be some kind of terrorist because of a project I did,” Reed said last week, after he was released from jail and police held a press conference to warn the public about him. “Their belief is my carrying the weapon is a dry run for a fictional terrorist attack, which is unrealistic and absurd.”

Everyone in the law enforcement class at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland had to do the same exercise: devise a terrorist attack and then discuss the law enforcement response to it. Reed, who was a law enforcement student in 2012 and 2013, got an A+.

He is no longer enrolled, having missed two weeks of school because of his legal troubles. He said the school refunded his tuition and said he is welcome to reapply in the future.

Police say their concerns weren’t based on the terrorism scenario but on Reed’s conduct Sept. 27, which supports the decision to charge him and issue the warning about him.

Reed was stopped at 1 a.m., walking near Woodfords Corner while wearing camouflage body armor and carrying an assault rifle, with 120 rounds of ammunition and a handgun strapped to his ankle. He later said he was in training and asserted his Second Amendment right to carry his guns in public.

“These are things that should cause people to be a little alarmed,” said Assistant Police Chief Vern Malloch. “It’s one in the morning, I don’t see anybody else out on military training missions armed like that. This is not behavior that’s typical, and his rationale for it is far from typical.”

Malloch said police wanted to warn the public not to approach Reed and to alert police if they saw him walking armed. Police did not intend to frighten the public, he said.

TERRORIST EXERCISE NOT UNCOMMON

David Hosie, who taught the Introduction to Homeland Security class at SMCC last semester, said he would not discuss individual students because of privacy requirements, but he said the exercise has value.

“I tell them to put their ‘terrorist’ hat on,” he said. Students are told to develop a scenario that includes the essential elements of a terrorist attack: motive, opportunity and means.

Designing such scenarios and analyzing law enforcement’s response are standard training in homeland security operations, said Hosie, who supervised training for the Transportation Security Administration in Portland for 10 years.

In class, students present their scenarios – some are cyber attacks, some have no casualties – during a PowerPoint presentation that lasts about 15 minutes. The class brainstorms what the law enforcement response should be, he said.

When Reed was stopped on Sept. 27, he said he had the Second Amendment right to carry his weapons in the city. Later, he said in class that he was going to do it again to assert those rights.

But after his legal ordeal, Reed said Monday that he doesn’t want to champion the gun rights movement.

Asked whether he regrets what he did, he said, “Oh God yeah. ... If I had an inkling of the level of reaction this would cause, I would have been just as happy to stay at home or go jogging without (guns) ... I’m not that principled.”

ARREST WAS A SURPRISE

His said his ordeal started in earnest with his arrest on Oct. 5 in Lebanon.

He was in town to go skydiving when his path to Skydive New England was blocked by two cars. Another car pulled up with blue lights. He said he thought maybe he had run a stop sign.

“I didn’t even put the two together,” he said of his encounter with Portland police a week earlier. Police were pointing assault weapons, shotguns and handguns at him, he said.

“There are people coming out of the woods. This is terrifying,” he recalled. “I’ve never had loaded guns pointed at me. It’s kind of scary.”

Reed served in the Army for 4½ years, including 15 months in Iraq, but didn’t serve in combat, he said. He was assigned to a unit that guarded detainees.

Reed was taken to jail after his arrest, then to the Togus veterans hospital. At a nearby facility, a hearing was held to determine whether he was a danger, he said. Authorities brought up every painful thing that had happened in his life, material taken from conversations he had had with a counselor while he was in the service, he said.

Police would not discuss any of the mental health proceedings, citing confidentiality laws.

Reed said his words were taken out of context.

Before his arrest, a doctor called to ask if he had any more weapons, and he replied “piles.”

He said he was being sarcastic. At the time, he had one shotgun and three handguns, one of them a World War II Russian service weapon.

Most, he said, have never been fired. He likes them because they are interesting and hold their value, he said.

Police said Reed described his late-night outing as training for a military mission, but Reed said he never described it that way. He said he hikes with his gear to maintain his conditioning and muscle memory.

“Next thing you know I’m ‘on a mission,’ ” he said.

He said he brought a pistol to secure his rifle, in case somebody tried to take it.

Because of his arrest, he said, finding work is impossible.

“The manager of McDonald’s wouldn’t want to hire me because I’m way too much of a liability,” he said.

FRIENDS HAVE OFFERED SUPPORT

Reed said he has had no problems with police since his release from the Cumberland County Jail on Friday, though they do make sure he abides by bail conditions that prohibit him from having guns and require he be home between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Reed said his friends’ reaction has been positive. One even baked him cookies.

Louis Pete, who runs a game store on Forest Avenue, said Reed is a nice guy.

“He’s respectful, cordial. He gets along with everyone here,” Pete said. “Am I a good judge of character? I think I’m pretty good. Is he a threat.? I don’t think he is.”

That said, Pete disapproves of Reed’s late-night weapons walk. “Even though you have a right to do it, you don’t do it,” he said.

Jeff Weinstein, president of the Maine Gun Owners Association, said there may be Second Amendment issues but police have to make judgment calls.

“People do have the right to open-carry in the state of Maine, however if somebody goes beyond the line of carrying peacefully and either implies or does in fact threaten somebody, that’s another whole criminal issue,” Weinstein said.

Larry Siegel, a professor of criminology at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, said society accepts a certain amount of risk when it comes to guns, just as with cars.

He said the Second Amendment rights must be weighed against public well being.

“You have a right to feel safe. I have a right to feel safe,” Siegel said. “Just to prove some constitutional point, it’s totally inappropriate to scare average citizens and ... police.”

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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