Safety and Training

Lessons Learned: Open Carry Gone Awry

Melvin Bogus after stealing a handgun

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)

  1. If I were a criminal and wanted to hold up an establishment,. I would look for open carriers, and shoot them first.

    I don’t see the sense in telling everyone around me how I will defend myself. It will be an unpleasant surprise to them. I am just fine with my manhood, with my firearm concealed.

  2. Here’s the thing. If you want to carry (open or concealed) you must be tactically disciplined – if you aren’t or can’t be, don’t carry. At best, you will be an embarrassment to supporters of the 2nd Amend. At worst you will get someone (or yourself) killed. 1) Keep a safety zone around you. Do not let people get within arms length of you. 2) Its not a p*nis. You don’t have to show it off to impress anyone. 3) Don’t give away your advantage – no one should know you are carrying. 4) You aren’t a Marine Recon Special Forces Ranger Commando Seal operator. Don’t get involved in something you can’t finish. 5) If you do get involved, it will cost you. You may be a hero, but you will still likely need an attorney. 6) Taking a life isn’t like Call of Duty. Things will stay with you. Just some thoughts for the armchair Rambos out there.

  3. “Force it” on you? Well since you asked nicely, I will not force it on you. I will even grant immunity from civil liability if you have a firearm stolen and it is used in a future crime. My case for tethers is based on being alone in a hostile environment. No one there to watch your back. But for the married, I guess that some wives wouldn’t even touch a gun, and should run away to get help, while some would be packing iron themselves. We all bet everyday that we can predict and control whatever might happen. Only God can do that, but we try to cover all the bases but new bases keep popping up. You bet your life every time you get on the road. If you drive yourself you’re also betting the lives of others on or near the road that you don’t lose control of a 2 ton weapon. Same with a firearm, there needs to be “best practices” established, laws if needed, to prevent issues from occurring. Like traffic laws, cities should be able to set their own “carry zones” to limit open and or concealed carry, require training in retention, law, tactics, marksmanship, and display a permit sticker to show LEOs and citizens you are certified. I’d even go so far as to support smart holsters that call 911 when a weapon is drawn and starts recording/ transmitting GPS/audio/video Bluetooth, WiFi, 5G all that stuff. Proof you did the right thing, keeps people from drawing weapons casually etc. Guns with some kind of authorized/unauthorized user detection seem to be a good idea in special use situations once the technology matures enough. And the market will ultimately decide whether a product is worthy.

    1. I only answer to “Cryin Chuck” FYI, 🙂 Seriously, I don’t want to restrict the 2A at all, but I also don’t want a bunch of yahoos shooting up the place if I’m walking around. I started talking about fingerprint readers and tethers as possible options for open carry, but Order and Discipline in general need to be strongly encouraged if not “enforced” for public safety. How many guns should someone be allowed? How much ammo? I can’t make anyone do what I want them to do, (Send me $100 and prove me wrong…:) I only want to get people to think about this stuff and remember that what I think is right is only as valid as what anyone else thinks is right and we need to come to a solution for everyone. Restrictive carry laws are better than no Carry Laws.
      The more people who carry responsibly, the lower the crime rate, the more people will see the value, the more places will allow it. Eventually all crime goes away and rainbows fill the sky…well until then, pray you have it and never need it.

    2. Scott, with all due respect, I must disagree. This is a slippery slope, this Hegelian dialectic of moving evermore to the left, toward government intervention into our 2nd amendment (and other) rights. There simply must be a hard line drawn here, as fuzzy lines are easily stretched or broken. The answer lies in strict laws against violent criminal behavior, strictly enforced. Add to this securing our borders and beefing up our vetting of immigrants to keep out the truly dangerous. We have to remember that 2A is NOT about hunting, sport shooting, or even self protection, but about reserving to the People , whom the government is ostensibly of, for, and by, the means to throw off tyranny. Period. This justifies AR-type weapons and ammunition stores, as well as our privacy in the ownership of such.
      I appreciate your wanting to bring options to the debate, and will defend that right (1A); however, i do disagree…Jim

    3. Jim, I’m not trying to restrict, but expand 2A rights, in places where it is already restricted to allow and encourage more people to exercise the right to bear. I’m trying to get Up the slope. I don’t know what a “Hegelian dialectic” is but as more and more people fill our cities and towns the need and desire for some type of control is increased. The Leftward lean is due to the free stuff they offer the sheep. When the 2A was written, civilians were equally armed or better than any soldier in the world. Today we’re limited to semi-auto when soldiers carry full auto and can direct artillery, air, sea or space* based weapons to any point. *(coming soon?) I would really like to have the 3-shot burst option, but would still be out gunned by the local SWAT team. The 2nd Amendment doesn’t mention Mental Illness, or Violent criminals but Hundreds of Millions of people seem to be Okay with making those exceptions. I don’t know how big the founders thought this country would get, or how densely populated, but maybe it’s time we start thinking about an overhaul to the Constitution. Balanced Budgets, Privacy, Cyber rights, maybe try to stem that “Hellenistic Dielectric” you were talking about. Govt. doesn’t give rights, it only takes them away. Govts. main job is to protect your life, it takes your money to pay for armies and police, then your property (or economic opportunity), then your rights. And not just you. For all the wildly different People we have today.
      Jim, I’d defend your right to say you disagree with me, (although I think everyone should agree with me. ) But if I can’t change your mind? No? Then I will leave you in peace with a smile. Thanks for the calm, rational debate, which seems to be missing so much today!

    4. I take it that I came across with some attitude. I apologize. It was not my intention. My wife is always harping at me about that. So, again, I do apologize. I do however stand by what I said. I feel that tethers and finger print scanners and the like are bad ideas. I do not agree with your other suggestions either. Registration, phones calling 911 everytime you unholster your weapon, cities and states making their own restrictions (which they allready do). Placing a sticker on your car saying I have a gun. Sorry, but I do disagree with you.

      2 years ago I retired. My wife and I bought a used motorhome with the intention of traveling the country. We have made a few trips. I very much wish to be able to arm myself so that I can attempt to defend us if necessary. Even as it is now, it is difficult to keep on top of all the different laws everywhere we go. If every state, city and burb makes their own laws it would be almost impossible to keep track of them all. It should not be that difficult for me to practice my 2A rights, which should be entitled to everywhere I go in this country.

    5. Attitude is like opinion, everyone has got at least one. My only regret is that you thought I was trying to force something on you. My perspective is always about what I would do, as is yours. I also think I did not clearly express my ideas because I don’t think I ever supported registration (other than the current federal firearms forms when you buy from a dealer) I understand the Drawn weapon/911 thing might raise some concerns, but it would be entirely voluntary and easily turned off. It would also need to be paid for by taxpayers, so don’t look for it anytime soon. You also got the sticker thing all wrong, It goes on the gun, or holster, and just says you have passed a background check, or belong to some group that can vouch for you or are insured, also entirely voluntary in my world. And just to be clear, you want the Federal Gov. to declare laws for every state, big and small towns all across America, one size fits all? Or would you extend that to the United Nations to cover all Nations on Earth so you can drive to Canada or Mexico in your travels? Sorry, there goes my attitude. Think of it like traffic laws, Cities and towns don’t create their own traffic laws, they just use them like they want. Cities can put stop signs where they want and set the speed limit to what they want. I agree there needs to be a National Standard for Carry Laws, but The States need to be able to adjust these laws within their borders. Wyoming is not New York, and NYC is not Upstate NY. Lawmakers are working to get The States to recognize each other’s carry permits but the work continues. Responsible, widespread carry is the goal. Bad Guys beware.

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