After close to five years, two lawsuits, numerous attempts, and thousands of dollars in legal fees, a Louisiana sheriff will not release a firearm to a mourning family.
“The evidence custodian at St. Tammany’s sheriff’s office said they cannot find my late son’s shotgun,” said the former St. Tammany deputy, Norman J. Manton, Jr.
This is just two weeks after Charles M. “Chuck” Hughes, Jr., the attorney for the sheriff’s office, confirmed with Human Events that the firearm was in their possession and available to Manton. Hughes also gave Human Events the model and serial number of the shotgun.
The Manton family instituted a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office, said Daniel G. Abel, their attorney. “The federal lawsuit alleges ongoing illegal activity committed by the St. Tammany sheriff’s office,” he said.
Abel said that since 2008 the Manton family has been attempting to retrieve their late son’s shotgun from St. Tammany Sheriff Rodney “Jack” Strain, after it was illegally seized when Manton was arrested for alleged bank fraud.
He said, “The charges against Manton were dropped but the matter is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation looking into the false charging of Manton in an attempt to cover up the involvement of former St. Tammany deputy Mark Hebert, who has been convicted of other such crimes before.”
“I went to grammar school with Jack Strain; we studied at the academy together; I worked for him,” said Manton.
He said he does not understand why the sheriff is being so spiteful towards him and his family.
“Each item that was our late son’s is extremely important to us. Sheriff Strain has our son’s shotgun and rosary beads – he will not give them back,” he said.
When questioned whether the Manton firearm was at the sheriff’s office, the evidence custodian, Diane Futch, said, “I am not able to answer any questions.”
She said there were certain policies to adhere to. Yet, she was unable to refer to a specific parish policy.
“Policies that violate the law are invalid,” said Richard Feldman president of Rindge, N.H.-based Independent Firearm Owners Association and co-counsel in Manton’s action against the Sheriff.
Futch referred Human Events to a Major Jimmy Richard for further comment. Calls to Major Richard were not returned.
“This is the quintessential administrative run-around,” said Feldman.
An attorney and Justice of the Peace at St. Tammany Parish, Timmothy Garlick also spoke with Futch. “She cannot find the gun, but she said there is a bag of items in their custody,” he said.
Futch told Garlick that Manton cannot have the gun, and any inquiries must be directed to the chief deputy.
Hughes said there are strict requirements about how to retrieve a firearm in sheriff’s custody.
“Manton is a convicted felon. When Manton clears up his mess, he can have his gun back,” he said.
Abel said that only certain enumerated offenses deprive a person of their Second Amendment rights under Louisiana law.
He said any reference to a felony conviction by the sheriff has nothing to do with nothing.
“The sheriff’s office knows, or certainly should know, that Manton was never convicted of an enumerated offense,” he said.
Their illegal seizure of Manton’s late son’s shotgun is a clear violation of his Second Amendment rights, he said.
Abel said the citizens of St. Tammany are misinformed about threats on their right to keep and bear arms.
“The real threat to our Second Amendment rights is not from the CIA or FBI, it comes from local law enforcement, such as St. Tammany Parish,” he said.
“If Jack Strain and his deputies had not been illegally taking firearms in the first place, he would not be embroiled in this problem,” he said.
Abel said this is not the first time Strain was involved in improperly seizing firearms.
“In fact there is a permanent 2005 U.S. District Court injunction that prohibits Strain from seizing firearms legally-owned by residents of St. Tammany Parish,” he said.
Feldman, a former police officer, said his request for a formal investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is ongoing and will uncover and document St. Tammany’s long history of confiscation of firearms and abuses of process.