An Ohio sheriff’s deputy whose Blue Privilege was denied by a security guard who held him at gunpoint for trying to enter a federal building with a sidearm is now suing for emotional distress.
Meanwhile, the guard who held him at gunpoint, Seth Eckland, is facing two counts of misdemeanor aggravated menacing.
But the Eckland has pleaded not guilty, insisting he was only doing his job when he pulled his gun on Lucas County sheriff’s deputy Al Gaston on May 31.
After all, he said, Gaston was not on official business when he tried entering an IRS building while on-duty and in full uniform. Instead, the deputy was tending to personal business, trying to obtain a phone number regarding a letter he had received from the IRS.
According to the Toledo Blade:
The U.S. General Services Administration, which sets the rules and regulations governing conduct on federal property, says: “Federal law prohibits the possession of firearms or other dangerous weapons in Federal facilities and Federal court facilities by all persons not specifically authorized by Title 18, United States Code, Section 930. Violators will be subject to fine and/or imprisonment for periods up to five (5) years.”
Who is “specifically authorized” to possess firearms in federal buildings? Federal, state and municipal law enforcement officers in the “lawful performance of official duties,” federal officials and armed forces, and everyone else “incident to hunting or other lawful purposes.”
Though Deputy Gaston was on duty and in full uniform, he said he was running a “personal” errand, at which time Mr. Eklund said he treated him the same as any other citizen — citizens cannot carry firearms into federal buildings.
The Federal Protective Service, which regulates security for all federal buildings under the General Services Administration, did not immediately respond to requests for clarification about when law enforcement officers may be armed in federal buildings.
Although it is not stated in the lawsuit, Gaston, who is black, believes he was being racially profiled because his law enforcement status was never mentioned when an IRS employee called 911 to report a “taxpayer … that has a gun and won’t leave the premises.”
But Gaston, who has been on the force for 34 years, did leave the premises after realizing Eckland was not going to let him in.
However, Eckland pulled out his gun and followed him, according to surveillance video.
Eckland claims he had done that because he was in fear for his life, saying Gaston had placed his hand on his gun while debating with him about whether he was allowed inside the federal building with a gun.
Gaston, who said he was only resting his forearm on his gun, said he was also in fear for his life and is now traumatized, having to attend counseling.
Watch body cam footage from Toledo police officers who responded to the scene, not realizing the man with the gun in the IRS building was a deputy. Eckland has since been fired.
Below is the lawsuit as well as a recording of the 911 call.