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Soldier fights conviction in open-carry incident

Dec. 23, 2013 - 02:40PM   |  
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Video images from Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham's arrest in March, which occurred after a confrontation with a Temple, Texas, police officer.
Video images from Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham's arrest in March, which occurred after a confrontation with a Temple, Texas, police officer. (Screenshot)
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A Fort Hood, Texas, soldier and gun-rights activist is asking for a retrial inhis Nov. 19 conviction on a misdemeanor charge of interfering with the duties of a police officer after a confrontation with the officer.

Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham’s attorney filed a motion for a new trial Dec. 18. Grisham’s conviction stems from a March incident in which he was openly carrying a semi-automatic rifle while on a hike off post with his teenage son. In an incident captured in dashboard camera footage, Grisham was arrested after a confrontation with a Temple, Texas, police officer.

Open carry of long guns is legal in Texas, but police were responding to a call alerting them to a man carrying a weapon when they arrested Grisham.

Grisham, who faced up to six months in jail, was given a $2,000 fine.

Grisham’s case has polarized the military community. Grisham is well-known in some military circles for his blog, A Soldier’s Perspective, and as a gun-rights activist. He founded Open Carry Texas, a pro-gun organization with active-duty military members, after his March arrest.

Although some in the military community have come to Grisham’s defense, others feel he is using his status as a service member for politics.

Grisham said he only publicized his military service because it was relevant to his defense during his case.

In the video of his arrest, a police officer confronts Grisham. The police officer reaches for Grisham’s rifle, which was slung across his chest. Grisham said that, as a result of his military training, when the officer tried to take his rifle, he instinctively put his hands on his rifle to prevent the officer from taking it. He said that as soon as he realized what he had done, he let go of the rifle. He said that action led to his conviction for interfering with a police officer.

“It was instinct,” Grisham said. “In the context of my actions, it is important that people understand that I am a soldier because I have that training.”

Grisham added he did not look for a confrontation with police.

He said he was hiking on a country road to help his son earn his hiking badge for the Boy Scouts.

The incident has been hard on his family, he said, including his 15-year-old son, who filmed footage of Grisham while he was being arrested. Toward the end of the video, Grisham’s son can be heard crying.

“I didn’t escalate any higher because I knew my son was there,” Grisham said.

“As a father, it really, really angered me that my son had to go through that,” Grisham said. “I wouldn’t do anything differently.

“There are people that say I brought this on myself, and there are people who say the officer was wrong,” Grisham said. “I don’t really care what people think about what I did. I believe that a right that you don’t exercise is a right that you are going to lose.”

Grisham said he comes from a family with legal gun owners and that his own father was an activist. He said going out on that hike with his son and carrying his gun was part of a normal day.

“My family is obviously 100 percent behind me,” he said.

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