Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE — A man who was detained for three hours while carrying an AK-47-style semiautomatic pistol at Radnor Lake State Park is suing the ranger who stopped him.
Leonard Embody filed a lawsuit in federal court in Nashville on Monday. He claims Park Manager Steve Ward violated his civil rights by detaining him without probable cause and for longer than was necessary to determine he was not committing a crime.
Embody has a handgun carry permit, and a new state law allows permit holders to carry their weapons in state parks. However, State Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman Tisha Calabrese-Benton has said Embody was detained because his weapon looked like a rifle and startled hikers had complained.
Embody's attorney, Phillip Davidson, said the gun has the same "center operating parts" as an AK-47. It has a pistol grip and no shoulder stock.
After Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives personnel were called, Embody was released without charges.
He has been detained briefly in several similar incidents — at least three other times in state parks and once by police in the Nashville suburb of Belle Meade.
Calabrese-Benton said the gun he carried at Radnor Lake on Dec. 20, 2009, had no stock and the barrel was under 11 inches. However, state attorneys were investigating whether it's legal to carry the AK-47-style pistol with 30-round magazine as a handgun. For unexplained reasons, it had an orange tip, like a toy weapon, although it was real.
The lawsuit claims Ward knew Embody had a handgun carry permit before detaining him because Embody had already shown the permit to another ranger. It says Ward pointed a shotgun at Embody, forced him to lie on the ground and handcuffed him. When Metro Nashville Police arrived they asked Ward to release Embody, but he did not do so immediately, the lawsuit states.
Embody seeks a jury trial and asks to be awarded an unspecified amount of compensatory damages for his injuries. The lawsuit claims Embody was "subjected to mental anguish, humiliation and embarrassment" because the incident was widely publicized in the local media.
No answer to the claims had been filed in court by Wednesday. Calabrese-Benton said the state cannot comment on the lawsuit but is asking the Attorney General's office to represent Ward.
Embody has been stopped at least four other times. Three times he was stopped while carrying a gun at Bicentennial Mall, a state park next to the Capitol in downtown Nashville, Calabrese-Benton said. He was released each time after a check of his handgun carry permit.
Embody also was stopped on Jan. 23 by police in the Nashville suburb of Belle Meade while walking down Belle Meade Boulevard with a .44 caliber black powder revolver in his hand, Belle Meade Police Chief Tim Eads said.
He was detained for about 16 minutes while officers checked his permit and weapon.
Eads said he is a supporter of Second Amendment rights but called Embody's actions "reckless."
Speaking of the lawsuit against Ward, Eads said, "I'm sure we'll be next."
Embody's attorney, Davidson, said he had no comment on the other incidents. He said his client is not granting interviews.