Two armed men who walked into a Michigan police station last February wearing face masks and body armor have been convicted, not for their actions in the police station, but for improperly storing a firearm immediately before their arrest.
Brandon Vreeland, 41, and James C. Baker, 24, entered Michigan’s Dearborn Police Department ostensibly to file a complaint regarding a traffic stop that had taken place only hours before.
Both men identify as open carry advocates, so, in an apparent attempt to test the limits of that right, Baker entered the police station carrying an AK-47 and a sidearm, and Vreeland carried a camera to film the encounter. Both men were also wearing body armor and face masks.
Police responded as one might expect.
Officers yelled at Baker and Vreeland to get on the ground and drop their weapons. The men began to protest but soon complied, though they continued to yell back and forth at the police officers.
Both men were arrested. Vreeland was charged with disturbing the peace and resisting arrest, and was found guilty of both charges on July 7, according to local news outlets. Baker was charged with brandishing a firearm and disturbing the peace, but was found not guilty of both charges. It is legal to openly carry a weapon into a Michigan police station, and the jury determined that Baker’s actions did not warrant a disturbing the peace conviction.
Resisting arrest, disturbing the peace and brandishing a firearm are all misdemeanors, none of which carry more than a two-year prison sentence. But the improper storage charge could land both men in prison for much longer.
Based on a video the men took prior to entering the police station, the jury determined that Baker improperly stored a rifle in the trunk of Vreeland’s vehicle. The rifle was unloaded and the trunk was locked, but the rifle was not stored in a case, which is illegal without a concealed carry permit under Michigan law.
Baker had possessed a permit, but it had been revoked following a separate disturbing the peace charge during an open carry march in 2015. Since the charges were dismissed, however, Baker’s attorney argued that his client’s permit should have been immediately reinstated, which would have nullified the charge from the February incident.
Baker’s lawyer told local media that his client was convicted on the “silliest of technicalities” and that he’s “very confident” both Baker’s and Vreeland’s convictions will be reversed upon appeal.
Though both men identify as open carry advocates, their actions were not praised by Michigan’s open carry community.
“There is a clear difference between the everyday protection we advocate for and the attention seeking actions of these individuals,” Michigan Open Carry said in a statement following the confrontation. “Wearing a mask, dark glasses, visible body armor, and a rifle slung across your chest instills a very specific image that cannot be ignored.”
Though the original video of the incident in the police station and the video of the traffic stop have been removed from YouTube, they can still be found posted by other users.