James Patock Files $20 Million Defamation Lawsuit Over National Mall Arrest for Guns in Trailer; Demands Return of Dog
Cops trashed James Patock's trailer, which served as his home.
They threw him in jail for 45 days, where he was pelted with excrement.
They even seized his 10-year-old German Shepherd, Lobo, and gave it away for adoption.
All because police searched his trailer, thinking incorrectly it was a bomb, and found a three guns.
Patock was in the Smithsonian Air and Space musuem just before the November 3 search, unarmed and looking at exhibits.
He's suing U.S. Park police and Council, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Arizona Republic, Channel 12 (KPNX-TV) news, Fox News and many other media outlets that he claims sensationalized his arrest. Various articles in Arizona and elsewhere quoted a neighbor -- James McFarland -- from when he'd lived in Marana, a guy Patock hadn't seen in four years, saying Patock once told him he'd like to shoot President Obama. Patock says that's ridiculous -- and besides, he was never accused of threatening anyone in the D.C. incident.
He's suing McFarland in the suit, too.
Patock was sentenced in January to probation after he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of attempted carrying of an unlicensed handgun and possession of an unregistered firearm.
Reached by phone in Virginia, where he now lives, Patock tells New Times he felt compelled to plead to the misdemeanors in order to escape a felony charge of possessing an unlicensed gun -- the charge that got him thrown in jail after his arrest. He's appealing the conviction based on the fact that D.C. law allows firearms in a person's home, and the trailer was his home.
The debacle began when police became suspicious of Patock's trailer, which was parked in a handicap space at the Mall. Patock, who's 67 years old, says he has a handicap sticker, suffers from osteoporosis and requires a cane to walk.
Cops were worried about several propane tanks on the trailer and "wires" from the tanks to the car batteries. Patock's federal complaint, filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Arizona, (see below) states that police later admitted there were no wires. The tanks were empty.
They located Patock, who told them (click here for the police report) that he'd visited the National Rifle Association headquarters and had some guns in his trailer. Inside police found a handgun, two rifles and some ammo. The Mall was closed for several hours.
Police trashed the trailer while searching it and seized his German Shepherd. He'd had the dog since she was a puppy, and losing her was like having "teeth pulled without anesthesia," he says.
The dog was handed over to the Virginia German Shepherd Rescue, Inc., while Patock was in jail, and later adopted out. Patock's lawsuit names the adoption agency as a defendant -- he says that when he tried to locate the dog, the agency told him it wouldn't help track her down.
But the worst part was the "45 days in jail with people throwing shit and insults" at him, Patock says. The D.C. jail was worse than Third World, he says -- it was "Fourth-World."
Though Patock told the cops he'd been living in the area, in his trailer, for the last couple of weeks, it's not like he's a bum. He's a retired computer technician and had been on a cross-country trip, he says. He attended the University of Arizona from 1996 to 2003 and obtained a bachelor's degree in history, a subject he loves. (He e-mailed later to clarify that "my last job in the electronics industry was as a senior software engineer and manager at Intel Corporation.")
A look at some of the media coverage shows he may have a decent case. Click here to see the November 4 story on azcentral. Here's a sample:
12 News has learned Patock threatened to kill President Barack Obama, according to one of Patock's neighbors.
"He talked a lot about government, how hated this president that was in here now, and how he'd like to dispose of him," Jimmy McFarland told 12 News reporter William Pitts.
A Washington D.C.-area Web site, the DCist, ran a headline that says, "Man Arrested After National Mall Shutdown Looks, Sounds Exactly Like You Imagined." That article also quotes the neighbor, McFarland -- but in this version, McFarland says Patock was after President Bush:
Charging documents reveal that the officer's suspicions were piqued when he noticed propane tanks hooked up to four car batteries and a generator on the rear of Patock's camper. Patock also had parked in a handicapped space, which raised eyebrows.
It also appears that Patock, who told police he was fresh off a visit to the NRA, has a long-standing grudge against a politician (surprise!) -- specifically, former President George W. Bush.
[Patock's former neighbor, Jim] McFarland said Patock owned several guns and displayed aggressive behavior. When asked to describe Patock's character, McFarland responded, "Weird. He hated the president (George W Bush). He hated everything. He said if he got a chance he would shoot the president."
McFarland said he wasn't surprised that Patock turned up in Washington.
The media also falsely reported that he'd been arrested for shoplifting in 2008, according to the suit. Arizona court records, however, appear to show that he pleaded guilty to shoplifting in 2008. Records show he was also charged with shoplifting in 2005, but the case was soon dismissed. (These are the online records -- New Times hasn't obtained the full files on these cases.)
What the records don't show is any indication of violence -- he appears to be harmless. The media storm "completely destroyed" his reputation by making him look like a "mad bomber" and a terrorist, the suit states.
Patock's seeking $20 million, demanding the media outlets "report the truth," and the immediate return of his dog.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.