Allen B. West

This is what happens when a Marine meets a gang member…in New Jersey

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Master Gunnery Sergeant (Ret) Richard Zahn is the latest victim of New Jersey’s out-of-control gun laws. Richard, a disabled veteran, spent 26 years of his life serving and protecting the United States of America in Kuwait, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He has more awards and commendations than I have space to list here. In the words of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, in a personal letter to Zahn, “Many desire to attain your accomplished goals, but few can compare to you. You have clearly demonstrated the exceptional leadership qualities and professional contributions we seek of our senior Marines.”

For the last 10 years, Zahn had worked as a government contractor on board Camp Lejeune training Marines and Sailors in a variety of different tactical subjects from Communication, Command & Control, Counter Improvised Explosive Devices & Counter Remote Electronic Warfare Systems, convoy operations, force protection, crew serve weapons and Marine Combat Marksmanship Program among other skill sets.

Instead of enjoying his retirement and reporting for work instructing Marines, Zahn is now sitting in jail in New Jersey.

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Early last year, after receiving a phone call concerning his seriously ill mother, Zahn drove from North Carolina to New Jersey where his mother was being treated for cancer (she has since passed away). Zahn had legally owned firearms in his vehicle and was not aware that his permit would not be valid in New Jersey. Upon arriving at the facility where his mother was being treated, Zahn was confronted by a man in a car Zahn had passed on his way there. The man, Jorge Polo, a convicted felon, was apparently irate that Zahn had “cut him off” at a drive way while passing him.

The felon, who was wearing yellow and black clothing associated with the Latin Kings street gang, approached Zahn while yelling, cursing, making gang-related gestures, and issuing verbal threats. Zahn felt threatened by the younger and larger man and so he told the assailant he had a gun. The verbal assault continued so Zahn then brought his holstered gun out into the open, hoping the sight of it would discourage the assailant. When all else failed, Zahn took his rifle from the vehicle, but as with the handgun, did not point it at anyone or make any threat to use it. Finally, the convicted drug dealer went away. By the way, according to Zahn’s attorney, this record of events was confirmed by both the assailant and his wife who had been in the car with him. Zahn then went to see his mother.

After caring for his mother, Zahn was met in the facility parking lot by local police who arrested him for possession of the guns. Despite his full cooperation with police, despite his completely unblemished record, despite the fact he never actually fired the weapon or even aimed it in the direction of anyone, despite the fact he legally owned the guns in North Carolina, Zahn was sentenced to 364 days in jail in New Jersey.

As a result of this arrest and his incarceration, Richard Zahn will lose his security clearance. He will lose his ability to work as a contractor and train Marines. After sixty days in jail he will lose his pension and medical coverage. His attorney is scheduled to attend a hearing today to appeal his sentence.

Remember Shaneen Allen, the 27-year-old mother of two from Philadelphia, Pa., with no prior criminal record, who was driving to Atlantic City in neighboring New Jersey in October when she was pulled over by police for an illegal lane change? Allen notified the officer that she was in possession of a hand gun she had purchased legally a week earlier for protection after being robbed twice, and had a concealed carry permit from Pennsylvania. Apparently feeling that the State of New Jersey was threatened by Ms. Allen, the officer arrested her for unlawful possession of a weapon, which left her facing three years in prison.

Gov. Chris Christie did the right thing and pardoned Shaneen. We’re hoping his office will review this case of the Gunnery Sergeant who has no prior criminal record and gave 26 years of his life in service to our country.

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