Judge clears man arrested in gun dispute at Waterside


Staff member
It's legal to wear a gun on your hip in Waterside, a judge decided Tuesday.

After hearing more than two hours of testimony, a General District Court judge dismissed a trespassing charge against Dan Moore, a Hampton resident who police said was ordered to leave Waterside for carrying a weapon, and refused to leave.

State laws permit openly carrying firearms in public places. City officials contended that Waterside, though built in part with public funds, is owned by a private entity and thus is a private facility not subject to state laws.

Judge James S. Mathews did not agree. After hearing from six witnesses called by the city attorney's office, he dismissed the charges, ruling that Waterside is a public facility, said Stephen Merrill, a Norfolk attorney who represented Moore.

Merrill introduced evidence obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority that from the time Waterside opened, "not one dollar in private money has been lost in managing the facility," Merrill said. "Clearly, it's a public facility."

Moore was ecstatic.

"I had a hard time sleeping last night," he said. "This has been a very stressful thing. It was a great relief to hear the judge dismiss the charges."

Moore had several previous run-ins with the Norfolk police while carrying a gun in a holster. After he was detained downtown in 2007 for standing outside the Bank of America building with a gun, the city paid him $10,000 to avoid a lawsuit.

In September, he was detained while trying to ride a Hampton Roads Transit bus.

A month later, after he and other gun -rights activists spoke to the City Council, he was arrested at Waterside. Moore said he will sue for the bus and Waterside incidents.

"The police think they can do this to me, but they can't," he said. "Someone has to answer for this."

Andrew Fox, who prosecuted the case for the city attorney's office, said the city disagrees with Mathews' decision, calling it "an erroneous application of the law."

Fox said the city can't appeal the decision, but added the city will continue to aid private businesses "in enforcing policies they determine to be necessary and appropriate to the safe and efficient operation of their premises."

Gun -rights activists celebrated the decision.

"This is another lesson to Norfolk that they need to worry about criminals and stop picking on law-abiding citizens just exercising their constitutional right," said Philip Van Cleave, who heads the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights group. "The city is acting like a bully."

Merrill, who is based in Ghent, was more understanding. "It's shocking for people in a city like Norfolk to see people open-carry," he said. "Even though it's been the law for a long time, it hasn't been practiced here until recently.

"But it's surprising that the city has been so slow coming around on this."

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this is why I don't OC anymore in this area. The PD's always watched and hassled me, but I never got what this guy got. Good on him.
That's the good thing about living in rural Virginia. Local law enforcement doesn't bother you for OC. It isn't as common to see as it was just a few years ago, but still practiced. Good thing about CHP, I can choose HOW to go armed.

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