Lessons Learned: Open Carry Gone Awry

By Dave Dolbee published on in Safety and Training

On December 17, at about 7 p.m. on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin, a 21-year-old open carrier and his friend were hanging out. It was well below freezing. Heavy coats, hats, and gloves were indicated. State Street runs from the University of Wisconsin to the State Capitol. It is about nine blocks long, and usually crowded with pedestrians, many of which are students. There are numerous bars and restaurants, as well as the Student Union and Memorial Library, Library Mall, and the Wisconsin Historical Society near the west end of the street.

The 21-year-old open carrier was from the nearby town of Black Earth. The Second Amendment activist had a shotgun, two pistols, and a large knife/machete. He was attempting to make political points while hoping to strike acquaintance with some women, maybe get some phone numbers.

First, let’s understand the type people who walk among us. They are the danger that makes us carry a firearm for self-defense.

Melvin Bogus, 39, no permanent address, well known to police, was also hanging out on State Street. He wasn’t supposed to be there.

Melvin Bogus after stealing a handgun

Handgun snatcher on State Street, Madison, WI

There is an arrest record for a prior inmate named Melvin F. Bogus from 2006. That inmate would be 39 this year. It may be the same person. There is a record of a Melvin F. Bogus of the same age, who was convicted of second degree robbery in 2010. The same Bogus or another Melvin Bogus, without permanent address, who is also 39 years old, on State Street in Madison, was charged with substantial battery and bail jumping on October 23, 2018—two months before this incident. The 54-year-old victim had to get stitches for a head wound. In that case, the officers were able to solve the crime using surveillance video, similar to the pistol snatching case in December.

Melvin Bogus’ first attorney, on 24 October was Crystal A. Vera.

At the status conference on 5 November, Bogus had a different attorney, David S. Knoll. Bogus was granted bond on 8 November, 2018
One of the conditions of Bogus’ bond was that he not be on State St. in Madison. From wicourts.gov:

CASH BOND AMENDED – $250 PER CASE. – Defendant shall not have any contact, direct or indirect, with FRH or VC. – Defendant shall not be on State St in Madison.

Knoll must have had a disagreement with his client, because he withdrew from the case on 10 December. Bogus had a third attorney, Mark Frank, appointed as public defender.

Then, on 17 December, just a week later, Bogus was recorded snatching a pistol from the open carrier and pointing it at him. From madison.com:

The friend said the victim, a gun advocate, wanted to make a statement about the right to bear arms and had been on busy State Street a couple of times practicing open carry,” DeSpain said. “The friend also admitted they were Downtown to get girls’ phone numbers.”

Bogus, who is known to Downtown patrol officers, confronted the man saying something like, “Why you wanna kill people?” DeSpain said. “The man with guns responded by saying he was armed because it was his right and it was for protection.”

Bogus then closed the distance between the two, getting close enough to grab a holstered handgun from the armed man, DeSpain said.

Bogus “pointed the loaded weapon at the victim, and the victim, in turn, pulled out his long gun and pointed it” at Bogus, DeSpain said. “It was a fluid, tense, and quick standoff.

Bogus ran off with the man’s gun, DeSpain said. Officers found him and recovered the stolen handgun, taking Bogus into custody on several tentative charges.

Some of the tentative charges against Bogus were bail jumping, carrying a concealed weapon, strong arm robbery, felon in possession of a firearm, reckless endangerment, and possession of cocaine.

If you are going to practice open carry, as a Second Amendment advocate, some preparation is in order. Think about the possibility of someone snatching a pistol. Training on avoiding, preventing, and actively stopping disarms is advisable.

Most open carriers have some sort of retaining device, perhaps travel in groups, to guard against exactly such a possibility. If there is more than one person, discussion of what tactics to use is common. Often, an unarmed member of the group will be a designated camera/video man.

Practice situational awareness. Have a plan on how to prevent a disarm attempt. Use of a retention holster is a good idea. As the purpose of the political action is political awareness, It is not necessary for all the guns to be loaded. Be particularly aware of people “closing the distance”. Mr. Bogus practiced what Marc MacYoung calls the interview, as a way to evaluate his intended victim.

There are plenty of convicted, career criminals/ mental cases/ drug addicts, similar to Mr. Bogus. You need to think about them, and how you will respond in a confrontation.

Mr. Bogus is very lucky he did not end up dead. The armed standoff only lasted a couple of seconds. No one fired. Perhaps Bogus had no intention of firing. Perhaps he had no understanding of the snatched pistol’s controls.

Melvin Bogus, Dane County Sheriff's Department booking photo

Melvin Bogus from Dane County Sheriff’s Department

Both participants were lucky. The open carrier did not justifiably shoot and kill Mr. Bogus. Even in deep blue Madison, with everything on video, he likely would not have been charged. He will get his pistol back. If he had to shoot Mr. Bogus, it would have been a long, nasty, time consuming process. People have a difficult time when they kill someone, even when justified.

Mr. Bogus will spend the rest of this (and likely more) winters in a warm Wisconsin jail and/or prison, where he will get three hots a day. It may be a better existence than he had on the street.

Snatches of pistols from open carriers are exceedingly rare. There are seven I can recall in the last ten years. One was in Milwaukee in 2010. One was in Oregon in 2014 (unloaded pistol, by law). One was in Washington State in 2015, (unsuccessful). There was one in Virginia in 2016 (after dark, before moonrise). One was in Phoenix, Arizona in 2016. Another was in North Carolina in 2017. Now there is one in Madison, Wisconsin (pistol quickly recovered).

There seem to be about as many pistols snatched from concealed carriers, who are pounced because their attackers do not know they are carrying, and consider them an unarmed mark. One concealed permit holder had a pistol taken from him. He chased the pistol thief, and was shot and killed. Some might argue that it was almost open carry, because the thief noticed the pistol when it was supposed to be concealed. Unfortunately, I have not recovered that link.

I have not found a single case where a pistol was taken from an open carrier, and the carrier was shot with their own pistol. This case in Madison is the closest.

The Madison police had a talk with the young open carry Second Amendment advocate. They stated he had the right to open carry. It was a refreshing change from 8 years ago when the Madison Police Department charged open carriers with obstruction of a peace officer and disorderly conduct for legally open carrying at a Culver’s restaurant. The police settled out of court.

The police talked to the young Second Amendment advocate about how lucky he was in this case.

Open carry is legal in 45 states. 15 of those require a permit. There are more than 17 million people with concealed carry permits. Most of those are legally able to openly carry where they can concealed carry.

12-13 states have Constitutional Carry, where no permit is required for either open or concealed carry, just as it was when the Bill of Rights was ratified.

Attacks on open carriers may be rare because of tactical deterrence. Most criminals do not wish to attack an armed person. There are easier prey about.

Most open carriers (the many I have met) are more careful than the youthful Second Amendment advocate looking to meet some girls on State Street. The advocate learned a valuable lesson. He will likely have a plan to prevent disarms in the future. A simple retention holster would have kept this disarm from being successful.

Do you carry openly? How would you prevent someone from grabbing your firearm when open carrying? What lessons can be learned from this incident? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (54)

  • Owens T

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    I’m not an advocate of open carry, I agree with John 0132 the individual was lucky and not prepared for that type of situation. Conceal carry keeps the bad guys guessing.

    Reply

  • Jason

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    For crying out loud !!!!! Why’d he have to have dreadlocks ?

    Reply

  • Eric

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    Open Carry? Only when I’m hunting, otherwise Hell No! I don’t need the attention or the drama of those who don’t support the 2A. If all Hell breaks loose, they will be glad I’m armed. I’ve heard all the Open Carry arguments, and I support their right, but I prefer to have the element of surprise, “I’m Packing Heat”. Just look at the attention Police Officers get due to their Open Carry. When all Hell breaks loose, I intend to take cover first, behind the first concealment I can find, assess the threat, THEN RESPOND. No need to paint a target on my back, if it’s avoidable. IMHO

    Reply

  • DfromTX

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    If you’re an open carry in a convenience store that an armed robber happens to walk into, who do you think they are going to target first??
    Open Carry is not a good idea!!

    Reply

  • mj

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    Definitely a reason NOT to Open Carry. The way it was explained to ‘counter’ was through training. So basically everyone approaching you must be considered a threat…kinda.

    I have been going to Madison once a year for almost 20 years. I’ve seen a really neat college town erode to a liberal haven for druggies, criminals etc.

    They actually sleep in front of the public building and yes, plug their cell phones in at the open outlets. Lefties gone wild!

    Reply

  • MikeB

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    I carry a weapon every time I leave my home. I rarely open carry with only a couple exceptions.
    On the other hand, when i was active law enforcement, I always open carried in uniform. I know, but you are the police. I agree, but police are also attacked and criminals try to disarm them as well.
    the point is, as a law enforcement officer I always carried a level 2 or 3 retention holster and practiced against being disarmed.
    If you choose to open carry, you should do everything you can to prevent being disarmed including retention holsters and defending your weapon. And have a backup that is concealed.

    Reply

  • john

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    Open carry is great but a loaded gun should be carried concealed when possible.You loose a significant tactical advantage when your firearm is visible not to mention possible incidents like this one.It also keeps anti gun people from getting their pink underwear in a knot. It is nice to be able to remove the concealing garment without breaking the law as would happen in this POS state of California.God bless states like Wisconsin.

    Reply

  • Mack Bolan

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    Well researched and well written article. Open carry is tactically ill advised even if legal. Studies have also found open carriers rarely have any formal firearms training…not a good combination.

    Reply

  • John0132

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    Open carry is Stupid. Bad guys operate on the principle that you don’t know they’re bad guys until it’s too late. Just like in this example. So open carry gives the bad guys a chance to devise a plan and arm thenselves if they aren’t already armed. Again, like in this example.

    If Bogus was homicidal, Open Carry guy would have been dead before he cleared his holster.

    Carry concealed and you keep the bad guys wondering who is armed and who isn’t.

    Reply

    • mj

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      If that’s an ACTUAL picture of Mr Bogus, he WAS homicidal as you say…just likely didn’t know how to operate the firearm.

      Reply

    • Mark Reid

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      So open carry has no detering effects? So your argument is that you will have the opportunity to stealthily unholster your weapon and should have bad guy doing bad things? And how do you suppose that will go for you? Do you suppose your life will change? I would guess it won’t be all parades and hero-worship,, more likely it will be litigation and legal fees and lots of it. I would much rather not put my family through the legal process.

      Reply

  • Heywood

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    Great info This wasn’t covered by the local news to my knowledge.I was just on State Street last week and was trying to be very aware due to the proliferation of crime in that area. I seriously considered C.C.but opted not to. Dane County/Madison with its liberal Prosecutors and Judges have made a revolving jail door for these habitual bad actors.Reap what you sow Madison!

    Reply

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