The weapons seized more than four years ago from Temple resident C.J. Grisham after his arrest by the Temple Police Department were finally returned to him Friday.
A video by Grisham’s son of the arrest went viral in the case that gained national attention and sparked the founding by Grisham of Open Carry Texas, a gun rights activist group.
The guns and ammunition were picked up at the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, which was one of the entities contacted in December 2013 that claimed it didn’t have the guns.
“I’m relieved that after 1,567 days, I finally have the guns back that were stolen from me by Temple Police Department on a back country road where I was minding my own business,” Grisham said Wednesday.
A nonemergency caller to Temple Police on March 16, 2013, reported a man walking on Airport Road with a long gun. Officer Steve Ermis located Grisham and his son. Grisham said he took the weapons with him for protection from wild animals seen in the area.
Ermis said in court he tried to take Grisham’s rifle because he was afraid for his own safety and first charged him with resisting arrest. The Class A misdemeanor charge was later changed to interfering with the duties of a peace officer, but Ermis then claimed in court he arrested Grisham for walking on the wrong side of the road.
Grisham said the guns, a Black Jack Firearms AR-15 and Kimber Ultra Carry Pro II .45 caliber handgun, appeared to be in the same condition they were in when taken from him, along with his ammunition. He’s fired both guns and cleaned them both to make sure they worked correctly.
His demand letter filed on Dec. 5, 2013, for the return of his weapons sparked questions of Bell County agencies and officials by the Temple Daily Telegram as to the location of Grisham’s guns.
It was almost like an Abbott and Costello routine as Bell County law enforcement and county officials professed, “We don’t have the guns.”
It wasn’t until January 2016 that the location of Grisham’s guns was cleared up when Bell County Attorney Jim Nichols said that the guns were in the custody of the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.
Initially questioned in December 2013 by the Telegram were Bell County Assistant Attorney Darrell Guess, County Attorney Jim Nichols, Lt. Donnie Adams, the Bell County Sheriff’s Department spokesman at that time, the Temple Police Department, Bell County District Clerk Shelia Norman, Bell County Clerk Shelly Coston and retired Judge Neel Richardson.
Richardson was the judge who presided over Grisham’s two trials. The first trial ended with a hung jury. In the second trial Grisham was convicted of interfering with the duties of a peace officer, a misdemeanor offense.
In 2016, Nichols said the guns were in the possession of a court reporter in a secure storage area at the courthouse, but the court reporter, Betsy Mock Clifton, never returned a Telegram phone call to verify the information.
The Temple Police Department spokeswoman Shawana Neely referred questions Wednesday to Nichols’ office.
Larry Keilberg, the national director for SelfDefenseFund.com, said the case was finally resolved after hundreds of hours of litigation and $175,000 in court costs — time spent fighting for Grisham in an “out of control legal system starting with a bully cop, manipulation of the charges to fit the defense case, followed by a very biased judge, Neel Richardson.”
Grisham and his attorneys sued the city of Temple and two Temple Police officers in federal court, and a trial date was set based on the evidence presented. The Self Defense Fund paid a police expert witness for the trial but, a week before the trial, federal Judge Walter Smith Jr. changed his mind in November 2015 and dismissed the case, Keilberg said.
The Third Court of Appeals had jurisdiction over Grisham’s guns until the appeals process was finished, Nichols said.
The Third Court of Appeals in March upheld the ruling against Grisham after the case languished in the system more than two years. Grisham said at that time he was looking into an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, but he decided against the appeal.
Grisham said he is grateful to the Self Defense Fund for defending him over the years. He said that he regrets “that the case didn’t end with justice received through no fault of their own,” he said. He also thanked his wife, Emily, who never gave up on him, and the thousands of people around the country who supported him through really difficult times.
“I plan to celebrate by wearing exactly what I was wearing that fateful day on March 16, 2013, and recreating the hike I was on to prove that what happened to me was nothing more than a power trip by a bully who wanted to assert his control over me and force me through a corrupt trial,” Grisham said.
“Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves for such a miscarriage of justice and putting my family through such stress just to prove a point and protect egos,” he added.