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Ex-Columbia County code officer stunned at Augusta bar

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A former Columbia County code officer fired last year for entering a home without permission was immobilized with a stun gun by Rich­mond County deputies at a bar early Sunday after he refused an officer’s commands.

According to a police report, James Alan Vowell, 52, of Grovetown, was at Coyotes, 2512 Peach Orchard Road, just after midnight Saturday and was asked to leave. Deputies arrived and found him arguing with the bar owner. As Vowell left the building, Cpl. Ryan DiGiacomo heard him tell a fellow deputy, “Wait until I catch you off duty.”

As officers tried to take Vowell to a patrol car, he spun around and pushed away DiGiacomo’s arm, police said. Vowell then cursed at the officers and said he would not do as they asked.

DiGiacomo stunned Vowell in the chest until he went to the ground.

While placing Vowell under arrest, police found a 9 mm handgun in the waistband of his pants. The owner told officers that weapons are not allowed at his bar.

Vowell faces charges of obstruction of a law enforcement officer and carrying deadly weapons in unauthorized locations.

Vowell made news in July 2012 as a code enforcement officer when he was caught on camera walking into Erica Masters’ Martinez home without permission.

Vowell, who was serving a violation notice for overgrown grass, walked in while Masters was asleep in her bedroom. Vowell later said he entered the home because he was concerned for the homeowner’s safety after noticing several things out of place.

He was not criminally charged because investigators found no criminal intent.

Vowell is also a former sergeant at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. He resigned in 2004 after admitting to taking a computer from the property room. Authorities said an ex-girlfriend tipped off Internal Affairs to the incident.

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harley_52
21747
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harley_52 10/22/13 - 02:31 pm
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I'm Curious About The Law....

...on the issue of "bar owner's permission" addressed above.

Is that "permission" assumed in the absence of notice that the owner doesn't want people carrying weapons? Must he post a sign, or some other notice? Or, are people carrying weapons expected to gain "permission" in person from the owner each time they want to enter the establishment?

I have been told previously (perhaps incorrectly) that "permission" is assumed in the absence of a specific, personal statement by the bar owner.

The Doc
56
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The Doc 10/22/13 - 04:02 pm
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Bar carry

Bars are listed as prohibited locations along with courthouses and other areas. It appears carry is assumed to be illegal in bars. The law states you can carry essentially anywhere in Georgia except certain listed locations. Then it states you can carry at a bar with a bar owner's permission. It appears the arresting officer had good probable cause to arrest Mr. Vowell on that charge. It appears permission can be assumed NOT to be granted unless the owner EXPRESSLY allows it. Looks like this is a good one for case law. In the meantime I would NOT recommend carrying in a bar with a permit. But GA is a good state for license holders. They can carry in a lot of places with great freedom not offered to citizens of many other states.

Riverman1
78408
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Riverman1 10/22/13 - 04:28 pm
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Harley asks a good question

Harley asks a good question about whether the bar owner has to give notice that the owner doesn't want people carrying weapons and if he post a sign, or some other notice? Or, are people carrying weapons expected to gain "permission" in person from the owner each time they want to enter the establishment?

Whymesays we shouldn’t be deciding the guilt or innocence of anyone on here. That brings up a discussion we have often. The fact is once a person has been arrested people are going to talk and voice their opinions. That’s actually always been the case, but it’s noticed more now with the prevalence of the internet and online newspapers. Of course, you are welcome to present your side too, but it’s nearsighted to think others won’t present their opinions. It’s also true we will hear the arresting officers and others in court, but until then we have what’s reported they said.

Riverman1
78408
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Riverman1 10/22/13 - 04:20 pm
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The Doc, on that subject, I'd

The Doc, on that subject, I'd also point out many "bars" have gained the status of being primarily food establishments even though we all know the truth. That could be tricky. If Coyote's is open on Sunday then it has been ruled to be primarily a food place.

harley_52
21747
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harley_52 10/22/13 - 04:41 pm
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You're Right, Riverman...

I think carrying a concealed weapon (with permit) inside an establishment that also sells food is legal so long as 1) You aren't drinking yourself and 2) The owner hasn't specifically denied permission to carry.

I'm obviously not a lawyer, but that's what I have been told by lots of knowledgeable people (and that's what I do).

harley_52
21747
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harley_52 10/22/13 - 05:35 pm
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Best I Can Tell...

The Doc is correct about specific permission by the owner of a Bar before it's legal to carry there.

If and when I go into a place that's purely a "bar" (sells alcohol, but not food) I'll either 1) leave my weapon in my vehicle, or 2) take my chances.

My suspicion is that most people take their chances under the theory that it's better to be a live survivor than dead, but in compliance.

Riverman1
78408
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Riverman1 10/22/13 - 07:15 pm
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Yep, I'm pretty sure for an

Yep, I'm pretty sure for an establishment to stay open on Sunday they have to have been deemed to primarily sell food thus taking it out of the bar designation. Far be it for me to take up for Vowell, but on that one issue he may be right. I know a few bars who are allowed to stay open Sunday because of that rule they manipulate. A reasonable patron would expect if a bar is open on a Sunday that it's primarily a food selling establishment. Coyote's was open past midnight so I assume it's allowed to stay open on Sunday.

nocnoc
37388
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nocnoc 10/22/13 - 08:00 pm
1
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THE GA LAW

Read and judge for yourself.

http://www.georgiapacking.org/law.php
Carrying a Weapon in an Unauthorized Location:
Carrying a weapon or long gun in any of the following places is against the law (misdemeanor offense.)

f: In a bar unless the owner permits carry (the owner has to grant permission for you to be able carry, a bar is defined as an establishment that is devoted to the serving of alcoholic beverages for consumption by guests on the premises and in which the serving of food is only incidental to the consumption of those beverages, like taverns, nightclubs, cocktail lounges, and cabarets)

The Doc
56
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The Doc 10/22/13 - 09:03 pm
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GA LEO certification

Regarding this guy's GA LEO certification, POST is probably the strictest state professional licensing agency, even medical like doctors. I know of LEO who got a DUI case. POST recommended revocation of his certification then stayed the revocation in lieu of 2 years probation and a public reprimand on his license with drug and alcohol classes as sanctions and a probation fee. Mr. Vowell probably appealed the POST decision instead of accepting it. And the appeals process is lengthy. I am confident they will revoke him even without this incident. I also know a doctor who got a DUI. The Georgia Composite State Medical Board evaluated him for substance abuse. The evaluation was negative. He received a non public "letter of concern" and had no public disciplinary action. Free and clear.

Riverman1
78408
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Riverman1 10/22/13 - 09:40 pm
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If Over Half of Income is From Food

I think the whole decision of whether a bar is mainly a business for alcohol or food is tricky. Richmond County and Columbia County say over half their income has to be from food if they are to be open on Sunday. Someone determined Coyote's could open on Sunday. Like I said before, many bars are allowed to skirt the county ordinance by "proving" over half their income is from food, thus taking them out of the "bar" status. Anyway, it's certainly a debatable issue.

Riverman1
78408
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Riverman1 10/23/13 - 07:15 am
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Points brought to my attention

Points brought to my attention this morning. Coyote's does not sell food. All bars in Richmond County can be open until 2 AM Saturday night. Also, this point was made, if Vowell was working there somehow assisting the owner, why did the same owner want him kicked out?

tanman2001
9
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tanman2001 10/24/13 - 12:50 pm
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I have a Vowell story. Jimmy

I have a Vowell story. Jimmy was one of the first guys to show up when I called for help on a typical assistance call in National Hills. A man started shooting at me from his bedroom, through the drywall when I walked into his living room. All I could do was take cover, and call for assistance. He came in to help me, when most responding cops chose to "secure the scene from outside". That takes a pair. Do I pretend to know the details of Sat night, no. Do I really care, no. Is Jimmy a saint? No. Am I, or any of you clowns? Nope. If you hate the man, go tell him. Don't trash him on the computer like a little gutless weasel.

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