Youngstown & Lorain cops confused over who the bad guys are

Anti-self-defense extremists are trying desperately to put the 'Defense' Walk genie back in bottle. Toby Hoover told reporters covering yesterday's big Statehouse Walk that gun-rights advocates who lawfully carried their weapons in the open "prove the concealed-carry bill isn't needed." There are enough headlines just in the past two weeks to prove how wrong Hoover is.

Just four hours after the November 1 Youngstown 'Defense' Walk concluded, and just two blocks from where the Walkers assembled, this college student found out just how far some law enforcement groups are willing to go to deny your so-called right to openly carry a firearm for self-defense.

November 11, 2003
YSU ROTC cadet's stick mistaken for shotgun
The student scraped his knee when police forced him to the ground.


YOUNGSTOWN - A camouflage-clad Youngstown State University student running downtown with what police said appeared to be a shotgun stock or short rifle - it turned out to be a stick - thinks city and campus police who drew their guns overreacted.

"The university police know that if any person in camouflage is around, it might be an ROTC cadet training," 22-year-old Joseph Wilhelm said in a letter to the Vindicator. "We always train down there."

Wilhelm said he was training for an ROTC varsity competition by running downtown with a 40-pound backpack, wearing camouflage pants and his YSU ROTC T-shirt. He said even if he was carrying a weapon, it wasn't concealed and is therefore legal.

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more.

YSU Police Chief Jack Gocala said Wilhelm, who was running alone at 5:10 p.m. Nov 1 near the WRTA station, caught the attention of YSU patrolman Charles Hanni, a part-time officer on his way to work a football game.

Hanni, driving his personal vehicle, called the campus police dispatcher who in turn, notified the Youngstown Police Department.

Gocola said the city officer drew his weapon and ordered Wilhelm three times to drop the object he was carrying. Hanni said in his report that he drew his weapon to protect the YPD officer, who was not named.

Cautious move

Wilhelm, in his letter, said he was ordered to drop his weapon but had "no clue" what the city officer was talking about. The YSU student said he threw the stick when told a second time to drop what he had.

Wilhelm said he was forced to the ground and scraped his knee. He was let go once the officers realized the gun was really a stick.

Gocala and YPD Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. said their officers wouldn't have known what Wilhelm was carrying until they investigated. Bush said the first city officer on the scene was Patrolman Carlo Eggleston.

Gocala and Bush said their officers acted appropriately, considering that a patrolman was killed downtown six months ago.

"I don't think any officer who believes there is a weapon would get out without his own weapon drawn," Gocala said. "Police can't be too cautious."

Wilhelm's complaint

Wilhelm said he understands and conceded that what happened may have been an honest mistake.

"I'm mad because I had a gun pointed to my head," Wilhelm said. "If I had made the wrong move, who knows what would have happened?"

Wilhelm said had the YSU officer properly assessed the situation, he would have realized the "weapon" was just a stick, a stick that looks nothing like a shotgun.

Gocala said Wilhelm should have yelled "YSU ROTC - this is a stick!" when he saw the police approach with their weapons drawn. The chief said Wilhelm running alone in full combat-type gear drew attention.

Gocala said he finds it interesting that Wilhelm contacted the Vindicator but didn't fill out a formal complaint with campus police, as he was instructed to do. Capt. Martin F. Kane, YPD Internal Affairs Division commander, said monday that Wilhelm filed no complaint there either.

Wilhelm said Monday that he contacted a lawyer who advised him to not file a complaint yet. The student said he's not sure what he wants to do and if he had received an apology from the officers, he may have let it go.

Youngstown police chief Robert E. Bush Jr. seems to have a serious problem with the authority of the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled that openly carrying a firearm is the method by which Ohioans can exercise their "fundamental individual right" to bear arms for self-defense.

Just four hours before his officers made this arrest, Chief Bush told 'Defense' Walkers that although he knows open carry is legal, he would still instruct officers in his city to arrest persons doing so, and "let the courts sort it out." (see: Youngstown Walkers make new friends, but not with the Chief

This problem in Youngstown is just one of several recent examples of how some law enforcement groups are increasingly confused about who the bad guys are:

Lorain: 8-year old children at play fort frisked for weapons, sent home

Lorain: 9-year old arrested for 'brandishing' toy gun in park

Vermilion (Lorain Co.): Flag Corps award-winner ordered off school bus; mock rifle deemed a "danger"

Related Story:
''Solo open-carry in Ohio - a 3-cop encounter''

Help us fight for your rights!

Become a member of Buckeye Firearms Association and support our grassroots efforts to defend and advance YOUR RIGHTS!

Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter

Get weekly news and instant alerts on the latest laws and politics that affect your gun rights. Enjoy cutting-edge commentary. Be among the first to hear about gun raffles, firearms training, and special events. Read more.

We respect your privacy and your email address will be kept confidential.


Buckeye Firearms Association is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending and advancing the right of citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation. Read more.