October 19, 2013

Police say gun-toting man poses threat to Portland

Carlos Reed says he is exercising his rights by walking with an assault rifle, hand gun, body armor and 120 rounds of ammunition.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Portland police warned the public Friday about a man they found walking near Woodfords Corner wearing body armor and carrying an assault rifle and 120 rounds of ammunition, who later said he was preparing for a military training mission and welcomed confrontations with police.

click image to enlarge

Carlos Reed poses for a picture in Portland on Friday, the same day police held a news conference about him.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Carlos Reed

But Carlos Reed said that he poses no threat, and that he has walked along Baxter Boulevard at night with his rifle a dozen times and never had a problem. The 27-year-old Iraq War veteran and college law enforcement student said police don’t like him asserting his Second Amendment rights and have cost him a semester’s worth of school by keeping him locked up for 14 days on a false charge.

“The reason I’ve been out of touch for two weeks is they tried to have me committed,” Reed said in a telephone interview after his release from the Cumberland County Jail on personal recognizance bail. “It was proven in court I’m not a danger to myself or others.”

Reed conceded that he sometimes does “weird stuff,” but said he suspects that police are overreacting to the gun incident to make sure they would be covered politically if anything bad happened.

Police said they are genuinely concerned.

“He said he’s going to arm himself again and force confrontations with the police,” Chief Michael Sauschuck said at a news conference Friday. “If somebody is saying he has piles of firearms and is going to have conflicts with police, that’s a concern for us and the community.”

Police stopped Reed at 1 a.m. on Sept. 27 after a resident reported a man walking with an assault rifle on Vannah Avenue near Forest Avenue. The caller told police later that the armed man didn’t threaten him or anyone else he saw.

Police saw Reed walking along Forest Avenue with his rifle in a “low ready” position, with the barrel near his left leg, pointed at the ground.

Officer Kevin Murphy drew his service weapon and ordered Reed to put down the rifle. Reed complied, and followed orders to step away and then lie down on the sidewalk, according to a police report.

Police found that Reed was carrying a Del Ton AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle with a Burris scope and a laser aiming device attached to the bottom of the barrel. A magazine with 30 rounds was loaded on the gun, though there was no round in the chamber. He had three other magazines with 30 rounds each, and a handgun strapped to his ankle, the report said.

“Reed said he feels comfortable being armed and that it was nice to have body armor and an AR-15,” said Officer Mathew Dissell, one of the responding officers.

Police confiscated the weapons because of the public complaints and the way Reed was carrying the rifle, Dissell said. They released Reed, with no charges.

On Oct. 1, Reed described the encounter to his community policing class at Southern Maine Community College, according to a statement from his instructor, former Portland police officer Kevin MacDonald.

When MacDonald asked Reed why he was out at that time of the morning with those weapons, Reed said he “was preparing for a military training mission,” MacDonald’s statement said. He didn’t think he had done anything wrong and said police had driven past him before the encounter and done nothing.

“At the end of the discussion he stated his armed walks would become a nightly event now that he knew it would provoke this type of police response,” MacDonald said.

“I felt they had taken my Second and Fourth Amendment rights,” Reed said Friday, referring to the rights to bear arms and be free of unreasonable search and seizure.

CHARGES ARE BROUGHT

In the days after the late-night encounter, police met with prosecutors, who decided that Reed’s actions constituted the Class D misdemeanor of “threatening display of a weapon” and obtained an arrest warrant. A Class D misdemeanor is punishable by as much as a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. State police arrested Reed – at gunpoint – on the charge in Lebanon on Oct. 4.

He also was charged with possession of hypodermic apparatus and possession of drugs, which police said they suspect are steroids, after they were found in his car along with a .22-caliber pistol and his bulletproof vest.

Reed was taken to jail, then ordered to go to the veterans hospital in Togus for a psychiatric evaluation Wednesday. Court papers say he was found competent to stand trial.

Reed made his initial appearance in court Friday, then was released on personal recognizance pending a court appearance Jan. 8. He is not allowed to have guns or ammunition in the meantime, and police can search him and his home, which they did after his release. He has a curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.

Reed said he has no criminal history, and police confirmed that.

Chief Sauschuck, who served in the Marine Corps, said Friday that there is a difference between walking with a gun slung over a shoulder and walking with it in the “low ready” position.

“You can pop that weapon up and target it very rapidly,” he said. “To us and the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, that is when it’s a threatening display of a weapon.”

The charge is distinct from the more serious charge of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, which requires a threatening gesture at a specific person.

Sauschuck noted that Reed’s nighttime incident occurred 10 days after the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard. He said that after tragedies, people say they “didn’t put the pieces together,” and Portland police don’t want to make that mistake.

“We’ve done all we can at this point, through the legal system and the mental health system, to get Mr. Reed the help he needs,” Sauschuck said.

Police said anyone who encounters Reed walking armed in the city should call 911.

SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS

Reed said he wanted to go out at night with his rifle to assert his Second Amendment rights, quietly. He said he asked an instructor at SMCC whether it was legal to walk downtown with an assault rifle in plain sight.

“He said: ‘I wouldn’t advise it, but you can walk down Congress Street with an AR-15 and it’s perfectly legal,’ ” Reed recalled.

“The point of the time of day was to avoid alarming people,” he said. But he expected police would question him, then let him go, as he had seen on YouTube.

“I did my best to stay within the confines of the law as it was explained to me” in class, he said.

He said, “I had the weapon pointed at the ground, which is, from my training, the only safe way to handle that weapon.”

Reed said he served in Iraq for 15 months in a unit that guarded detainees. He came home in 2009 and shifted from active duty to the reserves. He worked briefly at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham and then got a part-time job in sales.

His confinement cost him his academic standing this semester and his job, he said. He also had to pay $700 to get his car out of the impound lot where police took it after his arrest in Lebanon, he said.

GUN LAWS ALLOW OPEN CARRY

Police said Reed lives on Falmouth Street, alongside the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine. The university issued a safety alert about Reed based on the police announcement, said university spokesman Bob Caswell.

Reed’s attorney, Neale Duffett, said he was unaware that police had held a news conference to warn the public about his client until a reporter told him about it.

“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and we look forward to seeing this case resolved in a manner that is satisfactory to all parties,” Duffett said, declining to comment specifically about the warning.

Several Maine police chiefs asked the Legislature this year to tighten the law allowing people to carry firearms openly, partly in response to an incident in which a man carried an assault rifle through several neighborhoods in Portland on the day before Christmas – 10 days after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Sauschuck said at the time that officers lacked any legal authority to determine whether the gun was loaded, whether it complied with the federal ban on automatic weapons, or even whether the man had the rifle legally.

Maine is among the 35 states where it is legal to carry a gun openly without a permit or license, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. A permit is needed to legally carry a concealed gun in Maine.

The effort to clarify the law would have defined a threatening display as a display in a public place that would cause a reasonable person to be intimidated or alarmed. The bill was approved by the Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. 

Staff Writer Scott Dolan contributed to this report.

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

dhench@pressherald.com

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