Marine combat veteran, had been riding his motorcycle near Alpine
when another motorist called to complain about a biker passing a
number of slow-moving motor homes. Pierson was not charged with
a traffic violation or a criminal offense -- but he was arrested
and detained in handcuffs for 45 minutes because the sight of a
Mundane carrying a firearm caused Bassett to irrigate his underwear.
you have a gun," Bassett said a few seconds into the stop,
which was recorded
on Piersonís cell phone. "Are you a cop?"
indicated that he was not part of the armed revenue-extracting caste,
Bassett muttered: "OK, what Iím going to do is Ė put your hands
behind your back right now."
As he handcuffed
the compliant motorist, Bassett explained, "I donít like someone
with a gun," while insisting, "Youíre not under arrest."
statement is an unalloyed lie: Whenever a police officer restrains
someone, that person is under arrest. The first statement is a lie
by omission: If Pierson had been a police officer, Bassett would
not have complained about him carrying a gun. The category of "someone"
thus applies only to Mundanes, whose very existence is seen as a
threat to the unimaginably precious personages who wear state-issued
the first thing you should have told me, [that] youíve got a gun,"
simpered Bassett, whose panic-tinged voice was thrown into sharp
relief by Piersonís composure.
actually Iím not required to tell you in either Idaho or Wyoming,"
Pierson correctly pointed out.
you are," insisted Bassett. "If youíre packing a gun,
I want to know about it."
Iím open-carrying," Pierson observed, stating the obvious.
As Bassett began a rote speech describing the sacred imperative
of "officer safety," Pierson pointed out that he had done
nothing wrong or illegal, that the deputyís safety "is not
in any way in jeopardy," and that actually "itís not my concern."
yelped Bassett. "Itís my concern!"
concern is my personal rights and individual liberties, which you
are violating right now," noted Pierson.
am not," Bassett lied.
me handcuffed," Pierson reminded the increasingly petulant
you for [sic] number one, you did not tell me you had a gun on you,
Ďkay?" Bassett groused. "You do not get off your bike
and face me, and I see a weapon on you! I donít like that!"
me if I could get off my bike, and you said `yes,í" recounted
your concerns about search and seizure, but you have to understand
one thing about where weíre at in law enforcement," stated
Bassett. "Iím asking you for my safety. I donít know you. I
donít know your intentions."
The same could
have been said by Pierson about Bassett, who was, after all, just
another armed stranger. One critical difference, of course, is that
Pierson knew that Bassettís intentions were malign: After
all, the deputy had detained him, which is an act of aggression
by any definition.
when Bassett noted that Pierson had a gun, his first question was:
"Are you a cop?" If Pierson had been a fellow member of
the Brotherhood of Official Plunder, this would have allayed Bassettís
In fact, after
noticing that Pierson carried a military ID, Bassett suggested that
the detainee should see the encounter in terms of "force security"
in a battle zone.
in the military," Bassett began. "You ever been shot at?
Would you like, if you roll up on somebody you have no idea who
they are Ö wouldnít it be a question in your mind if this personís
got weapons on them?"
never served in the military, clearly saw himself as part of an
army of occupation Ė and insisted on unqualified submission to his
safety does not trump my right and my liberty," Pierson tutored
I stop you, yes it does," asserted Bassett.
personal safety is more important than all the laws, the Constitution,
and every one of my personal rights and liberties," summarized
Pierson, his voice heavy with disgusted incredulity.
Iím in a traffic stop, yes," declared Bassett. "Iím in
control of this situation."
is in control of this situation," Pierson rejoined.
I amÖ and if I feel that Iím going to be threatened by the fact
that you have a gun on your side, by hell Iím gonna do it,"
minutes later, Deputy Rob Andazola arrived to provide "backup."
At that point, as
Bassett has admitted in a sworn deposition, the deputies offered
to unshackle Pierson if he allowed Andazola to draw his weapon and
shoot the motorcyclist in the event he made any gesture perceived
as a "threat."
agree to those terms. Eventually a patrol supervisor reached the
scene and acknowledged that the motorcyclist had done nothing wrong.
Until that happened, however, Pierson was handcuffed, disarmed,
and entirely at the mercy of two armed strangers who considered
it their right Ė if not their duty Ė to kill him if he displayed
any behavior that made them uneasy.
know whether kicking my leg over the bike, or walking away, or what
they could possibly constitute as a hostile act," Pierson
told the Associated Press. "And I was a little unnerved
by the fact that they were threatening lethal force with a deadly
weapon against a man who was compliant, in handcuffs, who had been
In the sacred
cause of "officer safety," no precaution is excessive,
no imposition unjustified Ė and no constitutional "guarantee"
of individual rights is binding.
concern for citizen safety in the presence of police is underscored
by an incident that occurred near Canton, Ohio just weeks before
the traffic stop in Wyoming.
as I felt your gun I should have took [sic] two steps back, pulled
my Glock 40 and just put 10 bullets in your ass and let you drop,"
ranted Harless. "And I wouldnít have lost any sleep."
to "put lumps on" a witness to the incident, Harless told
Bartlett, "Iím so close to caving in your f*****g headÖ. Youíre
just a stupid human beingÖ. F*****g talking to me with a f*****g
gun. You want me to pull mine and stick it to your head?"
who was obviously deranged, Bassett and Andazola did not dissolve
into puddles of psychotic rage. But lurking behind their veneer
of "professionalism" was a willingness to commit homicide
simply because the sight of a Mundane with a firearm made them feel
kind of funny.
by Pro Libertate to comment on the case, Captain John Steztenbach
of the Lincoln County Sheriffís Office explained that "Our
lawyer has told us that we are to say absolutely nothing about this
case. I would love nothing more that for the other side of the story
to be told, and weíre very frustrated that we canít tell it, but
itís been made clear that until this goes to court, weíre not to
comment on any aspect of this case."
a courteous and well-spoken Connecticut native, explained that the
gag order applies not only to the details of Piersonís arrest, but
also to any discussion of the departmentís instructions and guidelines
dealing with matters of "officer safety." After describing
how he had come to the Rocky Mountain West to study at a gunsmith
trade school in Colorado, Stetzenbach proclaimed that both he and
the department he serves are "very pro-Second Amendment,"
and promised that when the legal issues are settled he will be very
eager to "tell the whole story."
amazes me how in situations like this, one side gets out very quickly,
and itís not ours; thatís really frustrating," Stetzenbach
this case Ė as in other "situations" of its kind Ė the
officers have themselves to blame for the fact that the public hasnít
seen "their side" of the story, since the dashcam recordings
of the encounter have mysteriously disappeared.
documented the incident, and the chief assailant has confirmed all
of the victimís key assertions. Res
In his sworn
deposition (as paraphrased by the AP), Bassett admitted that he
had been "trained to put his personal safety above the rights
of a citizen openly carrying a handgun."
told every day, our safety is first," Bassett pointed out.
"Weíre here to come home every night."
admission next time youíre told that the police are here to protect
and serve the public.