A judge this week threw out the case of a former high school teacher, Rancho Cucamonga, who filed a lawsuit claiming he was unjustly detained and searched. After being arrested for bringing a loaded pistol to campus.
US District Judge Stephen Wilson dismissed the case on Tuesday, November 30 – the trial’s first day – saying there was not enough evidence to support the allegations.
“Jury members, the court determined that, based on the evidence presented, there is insufficient evidence for the jury to decide the case in favor of the plaintiff; Wilson said, according to the court minutes.
The judge’s decision dismissed Joseph Nguyen’s claim, which was taken from class on May 17, 2019, by school officials and San Bernardino County sheriffs after they received information about a loaded gun on campus.
Nguyen confirmed that he had a loaded gun in his backpack stored in a locked locker in the classroom. As a sworn reserve police officer, he claimed he can carry an off-duty firearm, according to a civil lawsuit filed on April 24, 2020, in the US District Court for the Central District of Los Angeles.
The district of Chaffee Union High School High School, the defendant in the suit, said in a response filed with the court that no one may carry a loaded handgun onto the school premises, except for campus safety officers. “California’s Gun-Free School District Act makes it a crime for someone to possess a firearm on or within 1,000 feet of a school campus,” the district said in a statement shortly after the incident.
The case was based on Nguyen’s allegations that he had been unlawfully detained and “loo” by school officials due to his conservative political beliefs. He was placed on administrative leave. A group of parents and residents supported the science teacher at a rally in May 2019.
Among the accused was Principal Carrie Welburn. Matthew Holton, Superintendent of Chaffey Joint Union High School District; Kern Oduro, Associate Supervisor and San Bernardino County Deputy Mayors Anna Mata and Christine Garcia.
“The District is pleased with the results of the trial. “We look forward to closing this matter and moving forward with our mission to provide our students with the highest quality education and prepare them for university and career,” Holton said in an emailed statement.
School district attorney Daniel S. Modaviri successfully argued in a legal memo filed on November 28, 2021, that the district detained Nguyen and took his gun because he was violating school policy, not because of his political beliefs, and thus, civil rights were never violated.
Wilson explained in court that although politics came up, particularly in connection with Odoro’s asking Nguyen if he held a Ronald Reagan painting, it did not play a role in the county’s decision to detain him, take his gun, and transfer him to Colony High School.
The judge said that decisions made by Holton, as superintendent of the district, were “based on events, not politics.”
Lawyers for the Chaffey Joint Union High School District also argued that the district’s policy against bringing a handgun onto campus applies to everyone, except for the district’s safety officer, Robert McCoy, who filed for an exemption and obtained permission from the district to carry a firearm.
Also, documents show that after Nguyen was brought to the school district office and questioned, he “apologized profusely to the district administrators, ostensibly acknowledging that he had made a mistake by bringing the firearm to school.”
Later, he filed a lawsuit, saying that it was not a fault but his right to carry a concealed weapon onto the high school campus, since he was also a Level 1 Reserve Police Officer for the city of Irwindale.
The district said Nguyen, a 21-year-old employee, had neither requested permission nor requested an exemption from the policy in place since 2001.
In his complaint, Nguyen said he brought the gun into his classroom in a backpack and stored it in a locked filing cabinet. However, the district argued that the safe could be opened by anyone on campus who had a master key.
Finally, the district argued that it had broad powers to draft and enforce a gun ban, a ban that overrides the right of any peace officer to carry a gun onto the school grounds.
Attorney Brandi L. Harper, who represented Nguyen, did not respond to several phone calls and emails seeking comment. Harper is an attorney for the Peace Officers Research Association at the California Legal Defense Fund, according to her website.
Modaveri, with Carlsbad-based Myers and Fosey Dorke, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment, but in an email directed all inquiries to Holton.