Two Arkansas men wearing guns on their hips ended up detained after they started taking photos of a police department.
But it wasn’t the guns the Bald Knob cop was worried about as it is legal to open carry in Arkansas. Supposedly.
It was the photos.
“I’m not playing around,” said Bald Knob police officer Chester Wright after pulling up in his patrol car and coming to a screeching stop.
“Are we being detained,” asked Kalab White, a 22-year-old open carry advocate who regularly does audits on Arkansas police departments and their reaction to open carry.
Wright confirmed they were being detailed, ordering them both to place their hands on the hood of his patrol car.
“Under the suspicion of what crime” White asked, keeping the phone in his hand, letting it continue recording.
“Taking pictures,” Wright responded.
Wright continued pressing the officer to articulate a reasonable suspicion that they were both committing a crime, but the officer was unable to do so.
“I have reasonable suspicion ….,” the officer said.
“Of what crime?” asked White.
“We’ll figure that out here in a minute,” the officer responded.
Eventually, another cop arrived, Bald Knob police officer James Jackson, who came up with a reason.
“You guys cannot be on city property with a weapon,” Jackson told them, unable to cite the law that would state that.
Jackson also removed the phone from White’s hands, telling him he does not mind being recorded, but turning the phone off anyway.
But White quickly turned the phone back on to continue recording.
Eventually, Jackson noticed a sticker on White’s truck that are only given to law enforcement officers, which seemed to change the cops’ attitude towards the two men.
They were released without any citations or charges against them.
In a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime, White explained that he is a “commissioned officer,” which is essentially a licensed security guard, because he works for an armored truck company.
This allows him to carry a gun into areas where others might not be allowed, like banks or schools, but does not give him arrest powers.
However, in his free time, he conducts open carry audits, which he has been doing about six months now. He recently became a correspondent for a group called Arkansas Judicial Watch.
Arkansas law allows citizens to open carry as long as they are not intending to commit a crime, he said.
However, the state law apparently is not very clear to Bald Knob police, especially its chief, who arrested another man in May for open carrying.
That man, Richard Chambless, was convicted last month of illegally carrying a gun and disorderly conduct, sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Chambless plans to appeal and White said he is the main reason they were conducting their audit in that town or as he calls it, an “open carry walk.”
White, who lives in Jonesboro, about two hours from Bald Knob, said his local police department has a completely different interpretation of the law, which was amended in 2013 to include the following section:
SECTION 2. Arkansas Code § 5-73-120 is amended to read as follows: 30 5-73-120. Carrying a weapon. 31 (a) A person commits the offense of carrying a weapon if he or she 32 possesses a handgun, knife, or club on or about his or her person, in a 33 vehicle occupied by him or her, or otherwise readily available for use with a 34 purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun, knife, or club as a 35 weapon against a person.
White said that when he stood outside the Jonesboro Police Department taking photos with a gun holstered on his hip, the cops ended up inviting him on a ride-along, which he accepted, even if they did not allow him to open carry during the ride-along because it was against policy.
He also said that Jonesboro police have been called on him several times for open carrying, only to respond and not detain or demand his identification.
He said he has also done these open carry audits in a town called Paragould, about 20 miles outside Jonesboro, but those cops did not even bat an eye as they drove by him several times.
The problem seems to be in Bald Knob, a town of less than 3,000, whose police chief, Erek Balentine – the officer who arrested Chambless in May – reported last week that his truck had been torched and vandalized at his home.
The words, “Second Amendment,” were scrawled on Balentine’s truck, leading local media to speculate that the act of vandalism was in retaliation of his arrest of Chambless.
But White says there is speculation that Balentine may have set the fire himself and may be on the verge of losing his job, so this story is far from over.
On Monday, he says he will be making public records requests of the officers’ bodycam videos.