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In Colorado, can a person be arrested for walking near a middle school with a loaded rifle and wearing a hat and camouflage pants? The police in Florence seem to think so because they recently arrested such a person on a criminal charge of felony menacing. The man was apparently walking and not making any stops or threatening gestures. The police started to get calls about him and some observed that he periodically tried to hide the rifle.
The 33-year-old man reportedly walked down Third Street, past the police station and an elementary school. He allegedly continued toward the middle school. The police called the alleged attempts to hide the gun “alarming” under the circumstances. Per the Florence police chief, they had the area cordoned off by producing about 14 police officers within about six minutes.
When police confronted the man, he allegedly fled to a nearby home. After entering the home, he eventually came back out and was apprehended. The reports do not, however, indicate any menacing gestures or acts by the accused. Nonetheless, felony menacing is strictly construed in Colorado and the enforcement of the law favors the authorities.
Thus, the prosecution must only prove that the accused knew that his actions were likely to make some person afraid. The person does not actually have to be afraid. In addition, the accused does not have to specifically intend that the harm occur.
It is not even required that the accused make menacing motions with the weapon under the expansive Colorado statute. The alleged victim need not even be aware of the threat, which would probably be the case in this scenario. Thus, a sleeping person could be the victim. The school children were likely not apprised of any threat and not fearing for their safety, and yet the police filed the charges. The wording of the statute thus leaves little room for a defense to the felony criminal charge to be developed, which in turn tends to indicate that the law may be subject to constitutional challenge.
Source: bearingarms.com, “Colorado Man Arrested After Wandering Around Schools With Loaded Rifle“, Feb. 1, 2017