On July 21, 2012, Colorado Springs gay community held their gay pride festival in a city park. James Sorensen and his partner attended the festival. After the shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado the day before, Sorensen wore his handgun in a holster on his belt in open sight.
Sorensen and his partner spent 3 hours at the festival which was patrolled by city police. He walked past police officers with his gun in plain sight without incident. As he was leaving the park to go home, Sorensen was confronted by several officers of the Colorado Springs police department concerning his gun. His partner videoed the confrontation and clips of it can be seen in the video below.
The police detained Sorensen and asked him for his ID, which he refused to give them. One officer, a sergeant, told him he had a taser and then demanded to see his ID, which Sorensen then complied. He then wanted his gun and Sorenson refused, telling the police that it was legal for him to open carry the weapon in a city park. When the police said it wasn’t legal, Sorensen asked them to show him the sign that said it was illegal and they didn’t.
Sorensen continued to tell the officers that they were violating his Second Amendment rights and that it was legal to carry his gun in the park. One officer asked him if he has a concealed carry weapons permit and when Sorensen said he did, the officer said it didn’t matter because weapons were not allowed in the park.
He asked the officers why they didn’t do anything about him and his gun the whole time he was in the park but waited till he was leaving to take action against him. Numerous times during the incident, Sorensen asked if he could just leave which was what he was doing to begin with, but they would not let him go.
With four police sergeants and three officers surrounding him, Sorensen asked for a lieutenant or higher ranking police official to come to the scene but was told that since there were sergeants present his request was denied. Eventually one of the sergeants told Sorensen that he was under arrest and that he could sort it out in court. When he refused to cooperate, the arresting sergeant could be heard on video telling Sorensen that he was about to get the sh** beat out of him.
Sorensen even asks if it’s okay for one woman to violate the law by jaywalking but it’s not okay for him to legally carry his gun. Ironically, while seven city police officers were busy arresting Sorensen, you can count dozens of people jaywalking across a busy street. It’s not just a few adults that jaywalk, but whole families. Parents with young kids readily jaywalk right in front of the police who ignore them because of Sorensen.
WARNING: Strong language used in this video.
As it turns out, statewide law was changed in 2003 that allowed open carry of guns in city parks. This was nine years prior to the arrest of Sorensen and the Colorado Police had no knowledge of the law change? Did they really not know or were they just exerting their authority over a law abiding citizen either because he was gay or because they didn’t think he should be allowed to carry his gun in the park regardless if it was legal or not?
With an embarrassing court case ahead of them, the city of Colorado Springs opted to settle the case with Sorensen out of court. Sorensen accepted a settlement of $23,500 from the city, but he had to sign a provision of confidentiality in order to get his money. Don’t know about you, but I would never sign a confidentiality agreement as part of an out of court settlement. I would have insisted taking the matter to trial if need be, because I would want everyone to know that police were nearly 10 years behind state laws and that they violated my or his constitutional rights.
Prior to the settlement and signing the confidentiality agreement, Sorensen had told the local news:
“They had the gall to say, ‘Ignorance of the law is no excuse,’ and yet they are the ones that are ignorant of the law.”
“We decided to file suit because we want to better protect our rights, and make sure everyone knows they can’t just treat citizens like crap.”
“I just hope people will do more to protect their rights instead of letting people just walk all over them.”
Hopefully the Colorado Springs police department will spend some time updating their manuals, guidelines and officers in state laws and keep them up to date in the future. And if anything like this every happens to you and you believe that you are being wrongfully arrested or that law enforcement have violated your constitutional rights, just don’t’ give in, but stand up and fight for those rights like Sorensen did. Regardless of what you have heard or what you think, you can beat city hall.