Open carry of a firearm is legal in Colorado parks, but that did not prevent the arrest of an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran after last year who recently won a $23,000 lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs.
James Sorensen was shocked when a Colorado Springs police officer approached him and began interrogating him about openly carrying a handgun in the park. The 13-minute ordeal was captured on video and ultimately involved three officers and a sergeant. Sorensen’s Second Amendment rights were violated because none of the local law enforcement officers knew that Colorado law began allowing open carry in city parks a decade ago.
When the initial Colorado Springs police officer approached Sorensen and told him to put his hands in the air, the war veteran, who had just exited a gay pride festival, replied, “Negative, sergeant.” This exchange occurred several times, leading the sergeant to inform the war veteran that he was about to get the “s**t kicked out of him.”
During the encounter the then-24-year-old can clearly be heard asserting his Constitutional right to bear arms. “This is against the law. This is against my Second Amendment rights, sergeant,” Sorensen stated. “I need a real officer,” the Colorado man said. He also noted that he could not wait to air the details of the arrest in a court of law.
Before the open carry case could be heard by both a judge and the public, the city of Colorado Springs sought a settlement. It wasn’t until a public records request uncovered the right to bear arms violation that the details of the arrest became public, and then quickly went viral.
Colorado police officials blame the infringement upon Sorensen’s Second Amendment rights on a mistake in the “cheat sheet” that all law enforcement officers in the state carry. The sheet is reportedly a composite version of the complete criminal manual.
Sorensen signed a non-disclosure clause as part of the settlement. The non-disclosure clause in the Colorado Second Amendment case reads:
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.
Sorensen told media immediately after he was arrested:
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 and make sure everyone knows they can’t just treat citizens like crap. I just hope people will do more to protect their rights instead of letting people just walk all over them. I knew the law. I knew that it was legal for me to carry. My rights were trampled on.
After the arrest, Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey ordered an internal review of the James Sorensen case. Approximately four months later, Chief Carey issued a statement which read, “Policy violations were discovered and appropriate administrative action was taken.” The memo also noted that the criminal manual cheat sheet was reviewed line-by-line and updates were made. A police department policy note mandates that “more periodic reviews” be made of the document. If just one such update had been made in the past 10 years, Sorensen likely would not have had his right-to-bear-arms violated. The lawsuit settlement did not include an admission of wrongdoing by the police department.