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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 8/26/2003 11:22:21 PM EDT
Weapons charges may be dropped
BY GLENN SMITH
Of The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC) Staff

North Charleston police are seeking to dismiss state criminal charges against four people who were caught with an AR-15 rifle last week after determining the gun was a legal, semiautomatic weapon, authorities said.

Police seized the rifle after an officer outside a Rivers Avenue gas station on Aug. 20 overheard a man threaten during a cell phone conversation to kill someone, police said. When confronted, the man told police he had an M-16 assault rifle in his vehicle, according to a police report.

Thinking they had seized a fully automatic, military-style rifle from the group, police filed weapons charges against Clarence Pugh, 21, of North Charleston; Michael Collins, 22, of Jedburg; Tiffany Gabe, 17, of Cross; and Nathalie Bryant, 17, of Summerville.

Tests, however, later revealed that the gun was an AR-15, a legal, civilian version of the M-16. The gun was neither fully automatic nor an assault rifle, Detective Lt. George Tetanich said.

Authorities are requesting that the charges against the four be dropped when their cases go before a preliminary hearing judge today, Tetanich said.

Tetanich said Officer Tamara DiCenzo "acted in good faith" when she made the arrests and was merely trying "to prevent a more serious crime from occurring."

The incident remains under investigation, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is assisting with the probe, Tetanich said. Investigators are looking into the possibility of filing federal firearms charges against Pugh, the man DiCenzo heard talking on his cell phone.

Tetanich would not say what those charges might be. The rifle is being held as evidence while the investigation continues. Pugh told police an acquaintance gave him the rifle to settle a debt, Tetanich said.

Timothy Kulp, Pugh's lawyer, said he knows of nothing in the case that would expose his client to federal charges. Unless the gun was modified in some way, which it apparently was not, there was nothing illegal about possessing it, he said.

"While you won't find many people out there deer hunting with them this fall, it was simply a semiautomatic rifle," he said. "State law says you can carry a semiautomatic rifle on your backseat."

At the time of the incident, Pugh was free on $170,000 bail while awaiting trial on armed robbery and motor vehicle theft charges. He is accused of being one of four men who robbed two teens at gunpoint and forced them to strip before taking their car on North Forest Drive in December 2001, warrants state.



Link Posted: 8/27/2003 3:34:02 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/27/2003 3:34:42 AM EDT by Rockhound]
At least the officer had it right:
Tests, however, later revealed that the gun was an AR-15, a legal, civilian version of the M-16. The gun was neither fully automatic [i]nor an assault rifle[/i], Detective Lt. George Tetanich said.
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Sounds as though this guy is real piece of work though!
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 3:50:37 AM EDT
Did they have to do tests to determine that it was neither fully automatic or an assault rifle? It's pretty easy to see if the stock collpases or not and if there is a FS and a bayonet lug. All you have to do is open it up to see if it has any parts that would give it a happy switch.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:24:43 AM EDT
You have to remember that this shit is written by people who know absolutely nothing about anything, and that is an understatement. The reporter probably asked "Did you test it to determine whether it is an assault rifle?" The spokesman then would reply "Yes." and there it is. Doesn't appear that the arresting officers were too well informed either. Even though it looks as if the guy is a dirt bag, it is yet another case of somebody being hassled by ignorant law enforcement, who will get away by just saying "Oops!" GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:38:14 AM EDT
Yeah sounds like the piece of crap who had the rifle is just as stupid. Who in the heck would tell a cop they have a M16 Assualt rifle ..?!! I bet he didn't know the differences in the two was also.WD
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 6:05:29 AM EDT
WD; Sure sounds that way, doesn't it? Cheers!
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 7:17:35 AM EDT
I agree 100% with the LEO's decision to arrest. The Punk (Clarence Pugh) was overheard threatening to kill someone over the phone, and is traveling around with an AR in the car (and a few minors as well) The Punk is out on bail for armed robbery and auto theft, while making these death threats, and traveling around with a gun in the car. The gun was aquired from an "aquaintence" for repayment of a "debt" WTF! Hats of to police officer Tamara DiCenzo , she did a fine job! Put that dirtbag away!
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 10:15:51 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/27/2003 10:16:50 AM EDT by NC3Gunner]
While Mr. Pugh is definately a scumbag, and a pretty stupid one at that, I do believe the officer is way out in the wrong here, or there is more to this story that ain't being told. She arrested not only Mr. Pugh, but also the other three people in the party. Mr. Pugh had admitted the rifle was his, so why arrest the others? "Riding in the truck with an idiot and his gun" ain't a crime yet! Charges were filed before the Police checked the weapon? Thats like arresting someone with a box of Arm&Hammer and charging them with possession of cocaine before you test it. Cause you know what the ADA did is charge the guy with no evidence so they could hold him till the lab told them what a nasty illegal weapon they had seized. Federal Charges? Unless I missed something and you can charge an unconvicted felon (the article only states a pending charge, says nothing about a record) for possession, then the ATF needs to go home. So, basically, Officer Gungho ran into Joe Stupid and thought she had made a big bust! End the end all she did was open the North Charleston PD up to a nice fat lawsuit and it looks like the ADA followed her leap before you look method as well.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 10:33:14 AM EDT
Sounds like the officer had probable cause to arrest, not based on the AR of course, but on overhearing the guy making threats to kill someone. Although that's just a "B" misdemeanor around here (up to 180 days jail + fine), it's still a good basis for arrest. For someone out on bond for a felony, commission of a new offense is, of course, taken much more seriously. The officer thinking that the AR was an M-16 was likely based partly on the statements made (by the moron who probably thought he had a full-auto) and partly on ignorance of firearms in general (AR-15s in particular). Lots of new officers these days didn't grow up with guns and may have not even shot one until they hit that part of training.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 11:31:45 AM EDT
Great... And we wonder why we (AR owners) have a bad rap. Maybe the background check should included an inquiry to see if parents of the buyer are not actually siblings.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 11:53:42 AM EDT
Did I read that right, Pugh was out on bail for armed robbery and other things? Apparently, it's ok if this guy has a gun. Nah, I'll go back and read that again.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 4:40:47 PM EDT
Next headline: "STUPID ROOKIE COP DUMPS CITY BUDGET ON FALSE ARREST OF THREE PERSONS ACCOMPANING AN IDIOT! CITY WILL NOW DOUBLE LOCAL TAXES BECAUSE OF OVERZEALOUS ARRESTS." Yea, the idiot that was threatening to kill someone on the cell phone is trash and deserves his arrest. What was the basis for arresting the other three? Can you say lawsuit? My tax dollars at work... [>(]
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 4:50:20 PM EDT
I don't think the officer was out of line at all. She's a police officer not an BATF agent. I don't expect the average beat-cop to be able to tell the difference between an AR and an M16 to be honest. It may seem simple to us enthusiast-types, but not to someone who knows nothing about them.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:01:10 PM EDT
Originally Posted By AJjer_Bullets: I don't think the officer was out of line at all. She's a police officer not an BATF agent. I don't expect the average beat-cop to be able to tell the difference between an AR and an M16 to be honest. It may seem simple to us enthusiast-types, but not to someone who knows nothing about them.
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That's the point! If she knows nothing about them (M-16/AR-15) then how the f*ck can she justify an arrest. Kinda like not knowing what's behind your target, your still responsible, ignorance is no excuse. INNOCENT until PROVEN guilty. PS. This guy is still a scum bag and desirves what he got.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:03:01 PM EDT
Originally Posted By AJjer_Bullets: I don't think the officer was out of line at all. She's a police officer not an BATF agent. I don't expect the average beat-cop to be able to tell the difference between an AR and an M16 to be honest. It may seem simple to us enthusiast-types, but not to someone who knows nothing about them.
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I agree. Let's say the guy on the phone was saying 'I'll bring over the drugs' and has a bag of white powder in the back seat. Then he tells the officer it is cocaine. It's the same thing. What choice does the officer have but to arrest him and the rest of the 'gang'. If the guy tells the officer the rifle is an M16 full auto, what choice does she have but to arrest him if he doesn't have the proper form? Rule #1: Anything you say can and will be used against you.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:07:07 PM EDT
Many states have what is called a "Parties to a crime" law, which means that if other people appear to be involved in any shape or form with a crime or a offense, they can be held accountable for it, furthermore Im guessing the level of the other persons' involvement, or lack there of, was not immediatley evident to the officer. (and therefore "everybody goes to jail") Its not really our place to Monday morning quarterback a situation that we were not involved in.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:20:38 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/27/2003 5:25:34 PM EDT by M4_Man]
Problem is the "parties to a crime" won't hold water because there was no crime with the AR-15. As for the idiot's statement on the phone, the other three had no control, or prior knoledge that offense would occur. They were just innocent bystanders. So should I expect to be arrested next time I take the ole M4gery out because some cop once saw a picture of a M-16. As for "Monday morning quarterback", ever hear of an AAR. 1. What was supposed to occur? 2. What actually did occur? 3. What could be done better next time?
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:25:23 PM EDT
Naw, you should be arrested if you take the ole M4gery out, threaten someone over the phone, and tell a police officer it's an M16. There's a lot more too it then just the mistaken identity of the rifle. This is excactly what needs to happen should someone make that same set of stupid decisions.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:29:23 PM EDT
Originally Posted By AJjer_Bullets: Naw, you should be arrested if you take the ole M4gery out, threaten someone over the phone, and tell a police officer it's an M16. There's a lot more too it then just the mistaken identity of the rifle. This is excactly what needs to happen should someone make that same set of stupid decisions.
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Agreed!
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:48:07 PM EDT
Most of the new recruits we get going through our Police Academy don't know spit about any type of weapons. Sad state of affairs just like Lone Star Judge stated. I also concur with NC3 Gunner there is more to the story that we are not being told. Being in Law Enforcement 23 years, I would rather be sued for false arrest than being sued for failure to act, by letting this Pucus Americanis to go free with his weapon to kill someone. Damn if you do, damn if you don't. Since he was out on bond for two felonies, he could not have purchased any gun from a gun dealer. The thing being "under investigation, or indicted from a Grand Jury". Headlines would have sucked on the front page of newspaper or Communist News Network-Subject Arrested for killing X number of people with dreaded AR-15. Of course the news paper would show a picture of the rifle, or one like it. CNN would show video over and over of the crime scene, perp walk, and some one firing an AR. Then they would have one of there "experts" talking about this useless dreaded rifle. Then the segway into AWB. I think she did the right thing.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 5:50:12 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Bklyn_Irish: The gun was neither fully automatic nor an assault rifle, Detective Lt. George Tetanich said.
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Finally someone gets it right.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 6:45:26 PM EDT
Here is a little additional information that was barely covered by the article. The officer was just going home from working an off-duty job and was in full uniform. As she left the store she walked to her car and passed within 20 feet of the punk who was yelling into a cell phone that he had an "M-16" and was going to go over to whoever he was talking to's location and use it to terminate him with extreme prejudice. No doubt some colorful Ebonics were actually used in the conversation as well as expletives. In South Carolina it is a misdemeanor to make threats over the telephone and is an arrestible offense. The officer did what a good cop should do, she checked out the situation, called for backup because there were more of them than her, and when the rifle was found inside the car elevating the level of the threats from just verbal, an arrest was made. It was only after the detectives got involved and determined that it was a weak arrest that the punk was released. The rifle was NOT released and is still in the possession of NCPD. We have an active violent crimes task force here in the low country, and every police agency around works closely with them. If at all possible, we try to go with federal charges because of stiffer minimum mandatory sentences. The punks hate that.
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 6:59:01 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/27/2003 6:59:39 PM EDT by M4_Man]
Originally Posted By AMOS: I would rather be sued for false arrest than being sued for failure to act, by letting this Pucus Americanis to go free with his weapon to kill someone. Damn if you do, damn if you don't.
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Originally Posted by Firecop45acp: Im guessing the level of the other persons' involvement, or lack there of, was not immediatley evident to the officer. (and therefore "everybody goes to jail")
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You guys playing good cop/bad cop here?
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 8:32:17 PM EDT
The arrest was solid. The officers inability to correctly identify the weapon as auto or semi auto, is irrelevant. I for one, don't like the idea of someone out on bail for felonious crimes, to also have possesion of a black rifle. I understand that choir boys are sometimes falsely accused of serious crimes, however, everyone starts out in life as a choir boy. Loudmouth people who threaten others over the phone with gun related violence, probably shouldn't own firearms. I treasure my right to own firearms, so much so, that I make every attempt to avoid situations which may place my rights in jeopardy. I once stood charges for violent felonies, however I was never made to forfeit my guns. Charges were later dropped. I'm not the kind of guy to drive around with an AR in my vehicle while screaming threats to people on a cell phone. This guy sounds like a ticking timebomb, hopefully his prior offense will put him in the pokey. If not for the crime he's out on bond for, then something else he did which he was never caught for. Good Riddance!
Link Posted: 8/27/2003 9:20:16 PM EDT
As far as the Arm&Hammer goes police have a test kit for cocaine. Whatever your thoughts on this guy getting arrested are it looks like it was a damn good thing he did. Being out on bail and carrying a AR-15 in the back seat while talking about killing someone in public is unbelievably stupid. Being that stupid should be a federal offence. Also the police need a little bit of leeway in trying to keep people safe, especially from this guy.
Link Posted: 8/28/2003 5:06:34 AM EDT
Guys here's a Story for ya. This happened in Bibb county Georgia ( I believe ) in the late 80's. My sister sat on the Jury for this case. My facts are alittle off but this is a close anough story . Three morons planned to rob a Bank.They talked about it in front of one of the guys girlfriend.They planned it out and was going to switch cars afterwards to get away clean. Well they talked about what time to hit the bank and when they would leave to do the job the next day.The girlfriend call the police on the day they planned on robbing the bank.The Cops was set up and waiting on them. At the time the girlfriend had no clue where the three got off to.She told the Cops what the guys was going to drive.The guys never showed at the planned time. The cops had a patrol car out looking for them during this time.The cops found them broke down on the side of the road a mile or so from the Bank.They arrested them and confiscated the evidence.They had the ski masks', pistol, and hold up note they was going to hand the teller.Now they never made it to the bank.They didn't get to committ the crime. They went to trial , and was found guilty of several charges, and was convicted as if they did rob the bank. They all got many years to sit in the Big House.Now they did get what they deserved.I just didn't know you could be found gulity for a crime that hasn't techniclly been committed yet. Sorry my memory has faded and the story may be alittle off but thats in the ball park anyhow. As far as the two in the M16 rifle case posted , I think they got them for being accomplishes(spelling sorry) during the conversation of the punk saying he was going to hurt someone on the phone.For all the cop knew they was all going together to kick the crap out of someone or kill them.Better safe than sorry.Cheers WarDawg
Link Posted: 8/28/2003 5:21:49 AM EDT
My .02! Well what could’ve happened if Officer Tamara DiCenzo was not there at that time and heard what she did. May be another BLACK RIFLE incident? Where the weapon is the problem and not the Dip Stick who was out on bail for another weapon charge. Just my .02.
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