Mall open-carry incident not a crime, jury says

Beaumont shop owner Derek Poe carries a rifle into Parkdale Mall.

After a 9th Court of Appeals decision not to intervene on behalf of former Beaumont shop owner Derek Poe, it was up to a Jefferson County jury to decide whether Poe’s December 2013 walk through the mall where his shop was located with an assault rifle strapped to his back was indeed a crime punishable under the law. This month, the six-person jury recorded its verdict.

Poe’s actions sparked police intervention and prosecution as he was accused of the crime of disorderly conduct. Specifically, the state contended that Poe “intentionally and knowingly display[ed] a deadly weapon, namely a firearm, in a public place and in a manner calculated to alarm[.]” Poe argued that the Penal Code is unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, and violates his “constitutional rights to free speech and to bear arms” and asserted that “the act of displaying a firearm is conduct protected by the First Amendment.”

The jury did not find that Poe’s actions were criminal, and the jury unanimously voted not guilty to the sole charge recorded June 8. In addition, the assault rifle Poe was carrying at the time of the incident was ordered returned to its rightful owner. The firearm had been in the possession of the Beaumont Police Department since 2013.