Mission Viejo, CA (January 24, 2011) – The City of San Fernando will pay over $44,000 to San Fernando former Coast Guard Reserve maritime law enforcement Officer Jose Diaz and implement new policies and procedures for the improper arrest and seizure of Coast Guard Reserve officer Jose Diaz. The San Fernando Police Department also agreed to a Finding of Factual Innocence.
The lawsuit sought to ensure San Fernando properly trains its officers to deal with law-abiding gun owners. “The San Fernando Police Department give’s out awards to officer’s that ‘achieve benchmarks in firearm confiscations,’” said Davis. “But this contest encourages the illegal confiscation of lawfully possessed firearms by officers who do not understand the laws themselves.”
In November of 2007, then Reserve Coast Guard maritime law enforcement officer Diaz was driving to a shooting range when he was stopped by San Fernando Police Officer Marshall Mack to determine if Diaz had the proper vehicle registration. Upon approaching Diaz’s vehicle, Officer Mack observed a firearms case in the back seat with a firearm cable lock entangled around the handle of the case. Officer Mack was able to open the case without a key. The case contained two loaded magazines and a Glock with no magazine in the well of the firearm and no cartridge in the chamber.
At issue, was whether the cable lock entangled around the handle of the case constituted a locked container constituted a “locked container” and whether a coast guard reserve maritime law enforcement officer was permitted to carry pursuant to the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act, which allows police officers to carry firearms off duty.
Three years ago, the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act was passed by Congress and permitted Qualified Law Enforcement Officers to carry firearms regardless of state law. Shortly thereafter, a New York court held that LEOSA applied to certain members of the Coast Guard – the largest continuous maritime law enforcement service in the United States.
“I showed Officer Mack my Coast Guard ID and informed the officer that the LEOSA permitted me to carry a firearm as a Coast Guard maritime law enforcement reserve officer,” said Diaz. “I also informed Officer Mack that I was carrying the firearm lawfully – unloaded and in a locked container.”
Falsely believing that California law required firearms be stored separate from the ammunition, Mack arrested Diaz for unlawful possession of a loaded firearm because a loaded magazine was touching the firearm within the case. Diaz was booked and spent one night and one day in jail.
As California court precedent in People v. Clark, holds that a firearm is not loaded unless the ammunition is in a position from which it can be fired, the District Attorney instead filed against Diaz for unlawful possession of a firearm in a vehicle. That case was subsequently dismissed.
Diaz’s subsequent civil lawsuit for battery, false arrest, and federal civil rights violations languished with two previous attorneys for two and a half years of litigation. Diaz contacted The Calguns Foundation, Inc. for assistance.
“While we cannot financially support every firearms case, we have a stake in many of them,” said Gene Hoffman, Chairman for The Calguns Foundation. “We recommended that Diaz use an attorney knowledgeable in firearm laws and offered informational support.”
Diaz retained firearm rights attorney Jason Davis, who, on the eve of trial, orchestrated a settlement with the San Fernando Police Department. Davis announced the terms of the settlement today, which includes educational policies on “assault weapons,” carry permits, open carry, and LEOSA.
“Public safety is of the utmost importance . . . and that includes safety from infringement of our constitutional rights under the color of law,” said Davis. “With this settlement, and the policies implemented as a result of the agreement, it is my hope that law enforcement throughout the state will get the message that California’s gun owners insist on their rights.”