The DA in Waller County filed suit to let the judge decide if it’s legal to prohibit carrying firearms throughout the entire building where courts are located, or only in an actual courtroom or court office
Hempstead, Waller County, TX – An intense legal struggle is taking shape in Texas courts, one that could possibly remind everyone on either side of the controversy surrounding gun control that the civil law is a peaceful means of resolving often deadly disputes.
Two prosecutors in this rural, racially divided community are asking a District Court to decide whether a law against carrying firearms and other prohibited weapons in a building where courts do their business is properly interpreted by local officials throughout Texas.
Located on the northwestern edge of Houston, Waller is one of 76 jurisdictions targeted by an open carry activist who has threatened to file suit seeking to reverse their policy of interpreting the legislative intent of the concealed carry handgun law passed in 1995 in its definition of what constitutes the area in courthouses where firearms may not be legally carried.
Judges, prosecutors and police say the ban extends to the entire building; Pastor Terry Holcomb of Carry Texas says it’s just the area where the Courts and their clerks’ offices are located. The prosecutors who have answered the challenge have the transcript of the Senatorial debate offered in an amendment to the original bill. It clearly records the words of the Senator who asked for the amendment as he argued that no one should carry a gun anywhere in a building where courts decide the issues at law that are decided there.
No one is arguing that intense emotions do not well up in those who come to the trials of family members who are penitentiary bound, or victims of violent crime, divorced spouses or parents facing the loss of their children to protective services, and defendants facing money damages in judgments they can’t afford to pay.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced last week he is filing suit to challenge judges’ bans of firearms in their courthouses. As they say in the Judges’ chambers: When in doubt, STALL…
The location of the prosecutors who chose to fight back, Assistant District Attorneys Elizabeth Dorsey and Sean Whittmore, is as symbolic as the heat of that evening sun in cotton season.
The weather is just as hot this August as it was a year ago, when a Department of Public Safety Trooper wrestled a black woman to the ground and jailed her for what he swore were her “combative and uncooperative” actions after a 2015 traffic stop.
Brian Encinia would in January face indictment after a special prosecutor convinced a Grand Jury he committed perjury in a sworn affidavit supporting the arrest of Sandra Bland, a Prairie View A&M University alumnus from Chicago once active in the student movement to register voters on-campus. She refused to roll her window down and extinguish her cigarette. She had returned to the Prairie View area from her home in the north to help greet prospective students and conduct orientation tours of the university.
Three days after the arrest, deputies at the Waller County Jail found her hanged in her cell, a plastic trash bag tied around her neck. An investigation concluded she died by her own hand.
The Texas Department of Public Safety fired Encinia for the way he handled the arrest of Sandra Bland.
For what it’s worth, an examination of the nearly hour-long video from the officer’s dash cam clearly shows Ms. Bland accelerating through a stop sign at an intersection on the divided boulevard where Encinia had just released another motorist following a roadside stop.
As he followed her car to a stopping point, she abruptly jerked the vehicle to the shoulder and slammed on her brakes. Encinia narrowly avoided a rear-end collision. At one point, the trooper fairly pleaded with the woman, saying he only wished she would sign a non-criminal warning citation, something that results in no court summons and no mention of a violation on a person’s driving record.
Millions of television viewers saw only an abbreviated clip of the entire film, a YouTube video of only a couple of minutes, which showed the confrontation over the window and putting out the cigarette, the struggle to place her in handcuffs.
Nevertheless, Grand Jurors made a finding that Encinia lied in his affidavit of warrantless arrest to a magistrate and indicted him for falsifying a government document.
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY
Demonstrators at the Waller County Jail displayed rage in their rhetoric, parading around the square block surrounding the collection of squat buildings in the August heat of 2015, shouting obscenities at the few newsmen gathered to snap their photos, turning their backs to the cameras. It was an ugly scene, the kind that produces a feeling of shame that one is even there.
Who needs it? No one, especially homeowners who stood in the humid heat, their mouths agape at what they saw and heard.
A journalist with a Nikon bathed his face in darkness as he hid from the camera.
A group of supporters with their children in tow accompanied the protesters. One man was clearly seen displaying a handgun he had partially pulled from the pocket of his knit hoodie. Click for full size.
Only a few days later, police arrested a 25-year-old former Prairie View student who also flunked out of the University of Houston, a person repeatedly arrested for minor offenses who once escaped prosecution for aggravated assault at a homeless shelter in a dispute over a remote television control when a shrink declared him mentally incompetent. Authorities hospitalized Shannon Miles briefly. According to the murder complaint, he ran up behind Deputy Harris County Constable Darren Goforth at a convenience store in the area with a .40 caliber handgun later recovered at his home. Investigators say they will testify he fired the weapon 15 times into Goforth’s head and torso.
Investigators termed the murderous assault an “unprovoked, execution style ambush.”
The Harris County Sheriff later told the world media that he considered the killing “retaliation” for the fact that Goforth wore a police uniform.
In April of this year, Deputy Constable Alden Clopten escaped death when his bullet proof vest stopped six bullets fired from a handgun at a convenience store in a suburb not far away.
In their lawsuit, Waller County prosecutors are asking the judge to declare that signs notifying the public that it is a criminal offense to bring knives and guns into the building are not a violation of the open carry law that took effect on January 1, 2016.
They are also asking the judge to say that the entire premises of any courthouse or building that houses courts and their offices are off limits to those who are carrying firearms or knives.
Pastor Holcomb reportedly said that’s an attempt to stifle the public’s opinion on the matter.