A retired Federal Way police officer who said he was not allowed to bring his firearm into the Tacoma Dome this month has sued the city.
John Stray, 57, argues Tacoma’s policy preventing people from carrying concealed firearms in the venue violates municipal code and state law.
A spokesperson said the city does not comment on pending litigation. Stray’s attorney, Mark Knapp, said they’re seeking a declaratory judgment and attorneys fees, but no monetary damages.
“Plaintiff is challenging the City of Tacoma’s municipal policy that violates the Washington State Firearms Preemption Law by unlawfully preventing concealed carry within the Tacoma Dome,” Stray’s complaint says.
The lawsuit and supporting documents, filed Sept. 6 in Pierce County Superior Court, give this account of what happened:
Stray was denied entry to the Tacoma Dome on Sept. 5 when he arrived hours before a concert and identified himself as a retired officer who was carrying a firearm under the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act. That law exempts qualified former officers from state laws against carrying concealed handguns.
Iron Maiden was playing that night.
Stray says the city advertises that the only guns allowed in the Tacoma Dome are those carried by uniformed law enforcement as part of their official duties.
Sept. 5 wasn’t the first time he had trouble with those restrictions.
While he was still working as a school resource officer for Federal Way on June 11, 2016, the Police Department dispatched Stray to the Dome to work at a high school graduation ceremony.
He was wearing a two-piece suit and carrying a pistol in an ankle holster when he arrived and identified himself as an on-duty officer.
Security told him he had to put his weapon in his vehicle and searched him when he returned.
“They searched him right in front of all the kids that he’s supposed to be protecting,” Knapp said. “It doesn’t seem like the best image for the school resource officer to be searched right in front of the kids.”
After that incident, Stray returned a different day and allegedly determined the metal detectors weren’t working.
“Plaintiff has gone to the Tacoma Dome and tested the metal detectors to see whether they worked,” the lawsuit says. “He was able to proceed through the metal detectors and ascertained that they were not operating.
“Thus, the only individuals who were likely to be denied access to the event were plain clothes officers identifying themselves as armed law enforcement officers or others who chose to disclose that they were carrying weapons.”
The lawsuit goes on to say: “The fact that some members of the public have been denied their lawful right to carry a weapon on the premises while those with the intent to conceal their weapons with malicious intent can easily do so raises grave issues of public safety and policy concerns.”
Asked if Stray ended up going to the concert Sept. 5, Knapp said: “The main purpose to go there was to get standing for this case … . They told him, no, there was no way that they were going to let him go in, which we pretty much knew that anyway.”
He said Stray was a police officer for 35 years.
“The City of Tacoma has continued to enforce its unlawful policy against Plaintiff and the public, as well as law enforcement officers who are off-duty or out of uniform, when it is leased to third parties or for any other purposes, according to the City’s posted announcements, published policies and online communications with the public,” the lawsuit says.