Man claims Trinidad police violated his rights to open carry

TRINIDAD, Colo. (KKTV) - Two Colorado men were approached at gunpoint by Trinidad police while open carrying two rifles on a hike near the River Walk.

The incident, which was recorded on police body cameras, started out with officers on high alert, but ended peacefully as police determined the two men were not a threat and let them go.

Sean O'Connell told 11 News he was out hiking with a friend on June 25, 2017. The two were carrying rifles and had weighted backpacks on.

"We’re both looking to join the infantry, so we had weighted backpacks on, and we’re carrying rifles which in the state of Colorado is legal," O'Connell said.

The two had made it to the end of the River Walk near the Commercial Street bridge when they were approached by two officers with the Trinidad Police Department at gunpoint and ordered to drop their weapons.

O'Connell requested the body camera footage from Trinidad police and shared it with 11 News. In the video, police order the two men to the ground and ask them to put their arms out like an airplane. Police then ask for their identification.

"At that point we could’ve chosen whether to give our ID or not give our ID, but we never had the chance," O'Connell said. "They immediately ordered us on the ground and had us detained.”

According to Colorado law, it is legal to open carry a gun.

Title 18: Colorado allows a person to carry a firearm in a vehicle if its use is for lawful protection of such person or another's person or property. [C.R.S. 18-12-105(2)] Colorado law also allows a person to possess a handgun in a dwelling, place of business, or automobile. However, when you carry the weapon into your home, business, hotel room, etc. it must be in plain view. Local jurisdictions may not enact laws that restrict a person's ability to travel with a weapon. [C.R.S. 18-12-105.6] The Act permits the nationwide carrying of concealed handguns by qualified current and retired law enforcement officers and amends the Gun Control Act of 1968 (Pub. L. 90-618, 82 Stat. 1213) to exempt qualified current and retired law enforcement officers from state and local laws prohibiting the carry of concealed firearms.

Title 33: In accordance with Colorado wildlife laws, including C.R.S. 33-6-125, you may carry a weapon in your vehicle. However it is unlawful for any person, except a person authorized by law or by the division, to possess or have under his control any firearm, other than a pistol or revolver, in or on any motor vehicle unless the chamber of such firearm is unloaded. A "muzzle-loader" shall be considered unloaded if it is not primed, and, for such purpose, "primed" means having a percussion cap on the nipple or flint in the striker and powder in the flash pan.

O'Connell told 11 News he filed a complaint with the department, but the video footage shows the encounter ended peacefully.

Trinidad police completed an internal investigation after the June incident and found that their officers did nothing wrong. Police said their main concern is always public safety when they get a call about anyone with a weapon.

O'Connell admitted he is a First Amendment auditor, and he has other videos online where he filmed police officers, testing how they react in certain situations.

Trinidad police said while it is legal to open carry, they were concerned when they got a 911 call about two men with rifles walking down the street and that is why they approached them. Police say those who choose to open carry need to consider the fears and concerns of bystanders, especially in a popular public area.