The headline may conjure up comparisons to the case of the McCloskeys in St. Louis, but there are some key differences between the the couple and a Lansing, Michigan man charged with brandishing a rifle during a protest in late June. We can with the fact that the McCloskeys were on their own property when they confronted protesters who had broken a gate and entered the private community where they lived, while Gregory Richardson, on the other hand, was on a public street when he allegedly pointed a rifle at a man on a motorcycle who was trying to get past a group of protesters who were blocking the road.
Richardson’s attorney, Lucas Dillon, said Richardson is not affiliated with We the Free People of Lansing. Protesters reached out to a pro-Second Amendment group Richardson is a member of and asked for security. On June 17, Richardson was acting as a security guard for the group.
Dillon said the statute for brandishing a weapon lines up pretty accurately with the facts of the case. The one difference is that the statute specifies it is not illegal if acting in defense of others. That’s what Richardson was doing, he said.
“He’s not going to let a motorcycle ride through a crowd of people,” Dillon said. “He’s never done anything wrong in his life…He’s a family man who supports the Second Amendment.”
I appreciate Richardson’s support for the Second Amendment, but was this really a case of acting in defense of another? Based on reporting, it sounds more like the We the Free People of Lansing protesters were preventing motorists from driving down a public right-of-way.
Video shows a group of protesters lined up on Michigan Avenue as a man on a motorcycle stops at the intersection. He is on the north side of the intersection on Foster Avenue; the protesters are lined up east of him.
“You’re not going this way. This way is not an option,” protest leader Paul Birdsong said, according to the video.
Another man says: “If you’re going to run us over, I’m going to protect my crowd.” It is unclear if Richardson or another man with a rifle said this. The video shows Richardson pointing his rifle at the motorcyclist; the other man has his rifle angled to the ground.
“You can’t ride anywhere in this direction,” Birdsong said. “The problem is, we told you to stop and you revved your engine.”
There’ve been several instances of motorists hitting protesters with their vehicles over the past couple of months, including an incident in Seattle that led to criminal charges being filed against the driver, so I understand that the protesters may have been concerned about their safety. Even so, none of the protesters had a right to stop motorists, much less point a gun at them in order to prevent them from traveling down a public street. In Michigan, open carry of a rifle is legal, but absent an actual threat, you can’t point that rifle at anyone without breaking the law.
Was the revving of a motorcycle engine the only perceived threat? If so, it’s going to be very difficult for Richardson to successfully argue that his actions were done in self-defense and in defense of others. The protesters could have simply moved aside to let the motorcyclist through, but instead they claimed the public road as their own. In this case, even if Gregory Richardson had the intent of protecting protesters, it sounds like he and the other armed “security” ended up as the aggressors in this case.
There is at least one similarity to the McCloskey case, however. Prosecutor Kim Gardner in St. Louis says she wants to offer the McCloskeys the opportunity to enter pre-trial diversion if they plead guilty to unlawful use of a firearm, and Richardson’s attorney is hoping for a similar deal. While the McCloskeys have vowed to fight their charges, it sounds like Gregory Richardson is willing to take that deal if it’s offered to him. Given the fact that no one was harmed in the incident, and the lack of any criminal history on Richardson’s part, that’s probably the most appropriate outcome. It sounds to me like this was a mistake on Richardson’s part made in the heat of the moment, and I don’t think he should forfeit his Second Amendment rights as a result. Whether or not the prosecutor agrees is another story.