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VOL. 36 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 31, 2012

Man who carried AK-47 pistol in park loses appeal

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A federal appeals court has ruled a park ranger did not violate the rights of a man who wore camouflage and carried an AK-47-style pistol across his chest with a loaded 30-round clip in a Nashville park.

Brentwood resident Leonard Embody sued Ranger Steve Ward for detaining him at the Radnor Lake State Natural area in December 2009 while Ward determined whether the gun was legal and whether Embody had a permit for it.

Tennessee law allows guns with barrels of less than 12 inches in state parks. Embody's gun was a half inch under the limit.

"Making matters worse (or at least more suspicious), Embody had painted the barrel tip of the gun orange, typically an indication that the gun is a toy," a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Cincinnati, wrote in its Thursday opinion. "An officer could fairly suspect that Embody had used the paint to disguise an illegal weapon."

The court notes the alarm that Embod y's appearance caused other visitors to the hilly, wooded park.

"One passer-by spontaneously held up his hands when he encountered Embody," two other visitors told a ranger they were "very concerned" about him, and an elderly couple reported a man in the park with an "assault rifle."

The court calls Embody's detention and the subsequent lawsuit "predictable." It notes that Embody apparently anticipated something of the sort. He carried an audio-recording device with him.

Embody's attorney, Phillip Davidson, did not immediately return a call requesting comment on Thursday morning. Embody's phone number is unlisted.

Concluding that Ward's actions were reasonable, the court writes that, "having worked hard to appear suspicious," Embody cannot cry foul because park rangers took the bait.

"For his troubles, Embody has done something rare: He has taken a position on the Second and Fourth Amendment that unites the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence an d the Second Amendment Foundation," the court writes. "Both organizations think that the park ranger permissibly disarmed and detained Leonard Embody that day, notwithstanding his rights to possess the gun. So do we."

Embody was stopped at least four other times in similar incidents before the state took away his permit to carry a gun in March 2010.

In January 2010, Embody also was stopped by police in the upscale Nashville suburb of Belle Meade while walking down the central boulevard with a .44 caliber black powder revolver in his hand. He was detained for about 16 minutes while officers checked his permit and weapon.

Three other times he was stopped while carrying a gun at Bicentennial Mall, a state park next to the Capitol in downtown Nashville. He was released each time after a check of his handgun carry permit.

In July 2010, Embody sued over the loss of that permit, but a state court last month ruled against him.