Eddie Cochran has a state pistol permit but ended up in handcuffs after police saw his weapon openly displayed.
While the Bristol gun owner says he was illegally detained, police say it was legal under a part of the law many people haven’t heard about.
What’s surprising to some is that even in a state with some of the toughest gun laws in the country, it is legal for pistol permit holders to openly carry their firearm.
However, that freedom is accompanied by some consequences that all permit holders should know about and that Cochran appears to have learned the hard way.
He believes his rights were violated when police officers took his weapon on June 30 after they found him and his Jeep stuck on the side of Metacomet Road in Plainville.
“As they came up to me is when I showed them my license and my pistol permit at the same time with my hands up, not to cause alarm to the officer,” said Cochran.
But Cochran said the officers put him in handcuffs for fifteen minutes while they verified his permit, leaving him feeling publicly humiliated.
“At that point that’s when I felt like I was being treated as a criminal,” he said.
But under state law, Cochran did nothing wrong, according to Plainville Police Lt. Eric Peterson.
“It’s not against the law to open carry. You can carry your weapon, and you don’t need to conceal it,” said Lt. Peterson.
But Cochran’s case highlights just one example of an issue police departments across the state have dealt with.
We found memos online from multiple police chiefs to their own officers that provide protocols for encounters with pistol permit holders and echo what Plainville Police stress.
They say that while it is legal to openly carry in Connecticut with a permit, that “officers may still detain a person carrying a firearm to ascertain if they have a valid permit.”
“I was cooperative the whole time. I don’t feel that there was a need for handcuffs,” Cochran said.
But police say that based on the angle that Cochran’s Jeep was wedged into the rock on the side of the road, and the area’s notoriety as an illegal off-road site for vehicles, they believed he was fabricating his story about how he ended up stuck.
They say this was a factor in their ultimate decision to detain him.
“The person involved wasn’t giving police the same story as the passengers in his vehicle, and it was clear what he was telling the police officers wasn’t the case at hand,” said Lt. Peterson.
Cochran was left with a $92 ticket for trespassing and also left disgruntled about being detained.
But police say that while they respect the right of permit holders to openly carry their weapons, officers will place their well-being and the public’s safety first.
“In his investigation if he feels that he needs for his safety to take the weapon from you and handcuff you, you may be briefly detained,” said Lt. Peterson.
Cochran points to a Feb. 15, 2013, United States Court of Appeals decision “United States of America v. Nathaniel Black.”
Cochran says the court found that “where a state permits individuals to openly carry firearms, the exercise of this right, without more, cannot justify an investigatory detention.”
He believes the federal law trumps state law in his case.
Plainville Police Chief Matthew Catania issued the following written statement to Fox CT:
“I’d like to stress that the police were summoned to the area to investigate. We were there for legitimate purposes and came in contact with the subject openly carrying a handgun. In the interest of public safety, police are obligated to determine whether that party has a valid permit to carry the firearm. We [police] have an obligation to put public safety first while acknowledging that citizens have a right to openly carry firearms in Connecticut with a valid pistol permit. Based on a totality of facts and circumstances, we act to balance the interests of the state and the rights of the citizenry.”