By Kaitlin Durbin The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
LUCAS COUNTY, Ohio — The Blade has obtained new bodycam footage from Toledo police of what happened after a security guard pulled his gun on a uniformed Lucas County sheriff’s deputy at the Internal Revenue Service office in Toledo. The three new videos show there’s still confusion over where an armed law enforcement officer is allowed to go.
For Paragon Systems security guard Seth Eklund, 33, the rule was clear: no one, not even an on-duty sheriff’s deputy, can be armed in a federal building unless called there on official business.
“He was violating my directives,” Mr. Eklund tells Toledo police offers. “He just can’t be here with a weapon, and he wasn’t listening.”
But conversations among the officers, captured on their body cameras, show even they were unsure of the rules or what charges, if any, to arrest Mr. Eklund on after he held Deputy Alan Gaston, 57, at gunpoint.
“So what’s the law as far as somebody bringing … a firearm in a government [building]?” one person is heard asking on the video, stressing that the deputy was there on personal business.
“As long as he’s in uniform [he can carry],” another officer responds. “He can walk over to the government building and walk anywhere in Government Center he wants dressed like that.”
Later, the officer starts to waiver, suggesting that he understood both Mr. Eklund’s and Deputy Gaston’s positions.
“The sad part is, they’re both … [Mr. Eklund] feels that he was in the right. Now I don’t know what your guys’ rules are, and I know it says no firearms, but the problem is he’s in uniform.”
The footage, which was obtained exclusively by The Blade, has become the center of a lawsuit in which Deputy Gaston claims he was discriminated against based on his race when Mr. Eklund pointed his gun at him for being armed in a federal office and refused to let him leave. Mr. Eklund’s employers, Paragon Systems Inc. and Praetorian Shield Inc., both contracted by the Federal Protective Service, are also named in the lawsuit.
Deputy Gaston said he went to the IRS office, 422 N. Summit St., to ask a question about a letter he had received in the mail. Though he was on duty and in full uniform, he said he told Mr. Eklund he was there on personal business, at which point Mr. Eklund asked him to remove his gun.
When the deputy declined after other options weren’t available, Mr. Eklund reportedly drew his weapon and tried to detain Deputy Gaston while another office employee called 911 and told the dispatcher that there was a man in the office with a gun who was refusing to leave. The caller didn’t mention Deputy Gaston’s position with the sheriff’s office.
One point all of the responding officers appeared to agree on: Mr. Eklund took it too far when he drew his gun on a uniformed deputy.
“At what point do you think it’s good to pull a gun and point a gun at a law enforcement officer?” a Toledo police officer asks. “I’ll be honest, this is the first time I’ve ever dealt with this. I’ve been on for 13 years, and I’ve never had a security guard pull a gun on another officer.”
Mr. Eklund is also heard on video challenging police’s directives for him to stay with them until the incident is resolved.
The U.S. General Services Administration, which sets the rules and regulations governing conduct on federal property, says: “Federal law prohibits the possession of firearms or other dangerous weapons in Federal facilities and Federal court facilities by all persons not specifically authorized by Title 18, United States Code, Section 930. Violators will be subject to fine and/or imprisonment for periods up to five (5) years.”
Armed law enforcement officers conducting personal business are not specifically listed as “authorized” persons under the law.
But no one seems to want to set the record straight.
The Federal Protective Service, which regulates security for all federal buildings under the General Services Administration, has not responded to repeated requests for clarification. Neither has the IRS.
A message left with Paragon Systems’ program manager, Ernesto Gagarin, in Hawaii, also has not been returned.
Mr. Eklund was reportedly terminated and has pleaded not guilty to aggravated menacing. He is scheduled for pretrial Aug. 26 in Toledo Municipal Court.
Deputy Gaston has not been charged related to the incident.
©2019 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)