Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Training: City drops five charges

The Albany city attorney has decided to dismiss five of six disorderly-conduct charges issued after Albany police responded to self-defense training exercises that had been mistaken for an armed disturbance.

"I'm going to dismiss the charges against the students," City Attorney Jim Delapoer said Monday afternoon.

The self-defense instructor who was teaching the class, Christopher Lund of Jefferson, still faces a disorderly conduct charge.

Scott Turner, owner of Turner Taekwondo Inc., said Monday afternoon he was pleased with the decision to drop the charges against the students but still was concerned about the remaining charge against his instructor.

Six citations were issued July 29 after the five students, ages 17 to 45, and their instructor were seen practicing self-defense against someone with an airsoft gun in an alley behind Karate for Kids, 1711 Hill St. S.E.

At least one person driving past on Queen Avenue saw what appeared to be an armed disturbance and called 911.

Police responded with guns drawn. All the individuals were handcuffed on the ground and each one was given a citation for disorderly conduct.

Delapoer said after reviewing the case, he decided to dismiss the charges against the students because they "do not have the same level of culpability" as the instructor.

The charge of disorderly conduct will remain for the instructor, but Delapoer said he is willing to discuss a possible settlement or plea agreement.

"I feel very good for the five citizens, but I'm not feeling very comfortable about them wanting to pursue anything with my assistant instructor," said Turner.

He is hoping an agreement can be reached for Lund, whom he described is a "great person."

Lund said this morning that he has received some legal counsel and is hoping the charge will be dropped.

During the 12 years that Turner's Taekwondo Inc. has been in Albany, instructors have held training exercises outdoors. Lund wonders why now, all of a sudden, it's an issue.

Lund said people at the nearby car wash had been watching the class practice that evening and had no concerns until police arrived.

The situation created that evening was a dangerous one, Delapoer said in an interview.

Even though the students were using airsoft guns, if one of them had pointed it at police and an officer had shot a student, the shooting would have been justified, Delapoer said.

Also, if someone passing by with a concealed weapons permit thought a gun was being pointed at them, it's possible that person could have shot the student without violating the law, Delapoer said.

He has spoken with Turner and requested three things if the outdoor training continues: to prominently display signs where the class is being held. to paint the airsoft guns red, which traditionally signifies a training weapon. And three, to notify police 48 hours before the outdoor training will be held.

"Those three things we can comply with," said Turner, who is planning to continue again with outdoor training.

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