Biker scares away robbers with gun, legal question remains
RACINE — Four teens knocked a 42-year-old Racine man from his bike Friday night. He thought they were going to rob him.
The man pulled a Smith and Wesson revolver from his side holster, pointed it at the sky and yelled, “Gun!”
The four suspects ran, and the man flagged down a Racine police officer.
The incident will perhaps mark the first time a new opinion allowing open carry of firearms is put to the test here, as it conflicts with another state statute that makes it illegal to possess a gun within 1,000 feet of a school, if not on private property.
The Racine man involved, who asked not to be named and declined to comment on the alleged robbery attempt when contacted by The Journal Times, was assaulted in the 1100 block of Grand Avenue, which is within 1,000 feet of Walden School, 1012 Center St.
Police did not arrest the man. After he was treated for head and wrist injuries at the scene by Racine rescue, officers escorted the man home and returned his gun to him.
But that doesn’t mean charges won’t be filed against the man, and police are questioning how such situations should be handled in the future.
“It’s difficult with the way the laws are written to carry (a gun) and not get into trouble,” said police spokesman Lt. Jim Dobbs.
He said the new open carry ruling will probably prompt more and more people to wear firearms, but in many places in the city, even stepping off their front porch would mean they are breaking the law.
“People will break the law inadvertently,” Dobbs said. “We want clarification from the state on what we should be doing.”
Last month, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen sent out a memo saying openly wearing a holstered gun is not illegal. While Wisconsin law states a person cannot legally carry a concealed weapon, it does not address carrying a firearm in plain sight.
The opinion has created many questions, now including the apparent conflict between the existing statute over possessing a firearm near a school.
Racine County District Attorney Mike Nieskes said Tuesday that he has been briefed on the incident and has talked to the state Attorney General’s Office about it. “We don’t have all the information,” he said. “It’s still under investigation.”
Bill Cosh, spokesman for the state Department of Justice, said the Attorney General's Office wouldn't comment on specific cases or fact-pattern scenarios.
According to the police report, just after 10:30 p.m. an officer on patrol saw a bike lying in the roadway in the 1100 block of Grand Avenue. He then saw the victim walk out from between two houses holding a revolver. The man flagged the officer down as he set the gun on the concrete.
The man told the officer that he had just been assaulted. He said he was openly carrying his black and silver revolver in a side holster while riding his bike west on 12th Street toward Grand Avenue. He saw a group of teens on the corner of 12th and Grand and said, “Bike coming through,” to warn the group.
As the man turned onto Grand Avenue, he turned around to look at the group and was hit in the back of the head, the police report said. The man was knocked from his bike and hit in the head again.
The man told police he drew his revolver, pointed it to the sky and yelled out, “Gun!”
The four suspects ran west on 12th Street and the man went to hide between the two houses. He told police he intended to contact authorities, but then saw the squad car pulling up.
According to the report, the man believed the teens were trying to rob him. He could not give police a description other than the suspects were four black, male teens
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