published Friday, October 18th, 2013

Mistrial in trial watched by gun-rights advocates

BELTON, Texas — A mistrial was declared Friday in a Texas case against a soldier carrying his assault rifle on a hike, in a proceeding that was being closely watched by gun-rights advocates.

The six-person jury in Belton was deadlocked after two days of deliberations Thursday and Friday.

Army Master Sgt. Christopher Grisham, who was charged with misdemeanor interference with the duties of an officer, declared victory afterward. Grisham was arrested in March by a Temple police officer responding to a report that Grisham was carrying an assault rifle while hiking with his 15-year-old son for a Boy Scouts merit badge.

"The state, the entire time, has looked and gone out of its way to find something to charge me with," Grisham said in an interview.

Grisham said he was driven by the fear that a conviction or guilty plea in the case would create "ripple effects" for gun owners elsewhere, "if we're allowing our police officers to go around stealing people's weapons for no reason."

He was defended by Blue Rannefeld, an attorney for the National Association of Legal Gun Defense.

Temple police officer Steve Ermis, whose confrontation with Grisham was captured on cellphone video and posted online, testified Wednesday that Grisham's behavior concerned him and that he wasn't entirely sure why Grisham had the AR-15 rifle.

Grisham, who's stationed at Fort Hood, was carrying an AR-15 rifle and a concealed handgun, for which he had a permit. Texas law allows for rifles to be carried in public.

Court documents say Grisham tried to prevent Ermis from taking his rifle and later resisted as the officer attempted to place Grisham's hands behind his back. Prosecutor John Gantt Jr. told jurors that Grisham refused to follow Ermis' orders.

Grisham's son used his cellphone to record the confrontation.

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