A Peoria, Illinois businessman is flatly rejecting allegations that he and several other men verbally harassed a black newspaper carrier while standing guard over a restaurant earlier this month, while the driver says he wants to see changes to the state’s gun laws as a result of the incidents. Geoffrey Landrum, the carrier, says twice while he was working in the early morning hours, armed business owners harrassed him, but Ken Jack, one of the business owners protecting his property, says Landrum is “simply lying”. Unfortunately, this case doesn’t come with any videos or corroborating witnesses. It’s a classic he said/he said.
Landrum said he stops his vehicle occasionally on his route, so he can fold newspapers. About 3:30 a.m. June 2, he did just that on Humboldt Avenue, which skirts the northeast edge of Junction City.
As Landrum was folding papers, some men in a cart drove to the edge of the shopping-center parking lot, he said. They appeared to be checking him out.
This night was the second of several in which local destruction followed the police-involved death of George Floyd, an African-American man in Minneapolis. Numerous Peoria businesses were damaged and looted, houses were set ablaze, shots were fired and people were injured.
“I’ll admit I got indignant about it, but I continued to do what I do, which is to mind my own business and fold my papers,” Landrum said about the attention he was receiving.
As Landrum pulled away toward Prospect Road, he saw at least one of the men was holding a rifle. One or more also yelled at him and was walking parallel to him.
“That’s when I got nervous,” Landrum said.
Police arrived and talked to the Junction City men, according to Landrum. Officers then told Landrum the men received permission from Junction City management to protect private property, which was legal.
I can see where Landrum would get nervous if he’s folding papers and some armed guys are giving him the hairy eyeball. It also seems to me that, in the midst of looting and property destruction, business owners who were standing guard over their property would be curious about any car that pulled into a parking lot and just sat there at 3:30 in the morning.
Landrum says one of the men called out “African American up to no good” before he called police, an allegation that Ken Jack disputes.
Jack doesn’t deny he and other men on the Junction City property were armed. Tavern on Prospect Facebook posts and electronic-media reports made clear Jack was using guns to protect his business from looters.
During the pandemic, Jack estimated his business has lost at least $100,000.
“I understand people don’t like guns. I don’t like guns, either,” Jack said. “But what do you want me to do? You want me to let people burn my building? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
But Jack said most of the weapons he and others possessed – including handguns, a shotgun and an AK-47 — weren’t loaded. He also said nobody in his group said anything to Landrum.
“He pulled in and said, ‘Oh (expletive), you guys scare me with those guns,’” Jack said. “Nobody talked to him. These are literally made-up stories by somebody bored in life.”
The second incident, says Landruth, happened two nights later when a couple of men “tracked him” from the parking lot of the shopping center while he delivered papers. It doesn’t sound like there was any interaction between the two sides during that occasion, and while I can understand why Landruth may believe that he was being singled out because of his race, I can also see why business owners who are standing guard over their property might take an interest in anyone coming to the shopping center at 3:30 in the morning.
Keep in mind, while both of these incidents were taking place, around Peoria “businesses were [being] damaged and looted, houses were set ablaze, shots were fired and people were injured,” in the words of the Peoria Journal-Star. This wasn’t a typical Tuesday morning, in other words. That might have put both Mr. Landruth and the armed business owners in a heightened state of awareness, but at no point does it sound like the business owners considered him or treated him like an actual threat.
Someone’s not telling the truth, but I don’t have enough evidence to declare either side a liar. It’s certainly possible that one of the guys guarding the local businesses are awful racists who were targeting Landrum because he was a black man out and about at a time of night when most people are home in their beds. It’s possible that Landrum is mistaken about what happened, and is reading the apprehension that business owners felt as looting was taking place in the city as aggression towards him. It’s also possible he’s telling a lie, perhaps because he believes it’s in pursuit of a greater good.
Landrum made it clear he did not hear the men use racial slurs. He said he had no complaints about law enforcement or their actions in this case.
“What I want to have happen is something like this to never happen again,” Landrum said. “This is how black men get killed in this country. And I’m not talking about police.
“You can’t tell me a black business owner would have been allowed to do the exact same thing.”
Landrum said he has contacted local legislators and others in an attempt to change state laws that allow open carry of firearms by business owners on their property.
I just finished binge-watching “House, M.D.” a few weeks ago, so I still have the phrase “everybody lies” ringing in my ears. There is also the distinct possibility that everyone involved is spinning what happened, and that nobody’s being completely honest.
Regardless of who may be telling more of the truth, it looks like Landrum’s focus at the moment is on trying to use this incident to change the gun laws in the state of Illinois, not to get the business owners evicted or to cancel them completely. I find it interesting (and honestly, kind of refreshing) to see Landrum use this incident to call for a specific legislative change rather than demanding the utter destruction of someone’s life over a real or imagined slight.
However, I completely disagree with Landrum’s quest to ban the open carrying of firearms on private property. Not only would that be a violation of our right to keep and bear arms, his idea seems to be based on the idea that black business owners wouldn’t be allowed to stand armed and protect their property during unrest. That’s simply untrue. In fact, Zuri Davis of Reason recently devoted a story to the black gun owners who are defending their homes and businesses by exercising their Second Amendment right. Here’s a taste, but go read the whole thing.
A video of a group of armed black residents in St. Paul went viral on Thursday. The video shows armed black men standing in front of a store. The person who is recording says that the business they’re protecting is black-owned. A black gunman can be seen in the background of another video featuring civilians protecting a store.
Here’s my advice to Mr. Landrum. If your real issue is the belief that black gun owners wouldn’t be allowed to protect their property with guns, then before trying to ban business owners from open carrying on their own property, work with black business owners to do the same. Give it a shot.
I understand that you may be reluctant to do that, given what you fear might happen as a result, but what if you put out a call on social media for allies of all colors to join you in defending black-owned stores? I guarantee that you would be overwhelmed with volunteers of all races, colors, and creeds who stand ready to protect not only your business, but your right to keep and bear arms as well.
I’d be a fool to pretend that there are no racist gun owners out there, but the vast majority of the Second Amendment community is dedicated to the principle that the People have a right to keep and bear arms. All of the People. Heck, if you can’t find anyone else, reach out to me on Twitter, Mr. Landrum. Since I don’t have a FOID card, I’m not sure if I’m legally allowed to stand guard with a gun over a black-owned business, but if I can, I’ll be there. If not, I know plenty of gun owners in the state who I think would be more than willing to lend a hand and prove your hypothesis wrong.