Police Chief of Gulfport, Mississippi, Says That Open Carry Incident in a Walmart Store Could Have Turned into ‘Violent Misunderstanding’

Leonard Papania Police Chief of Gulfport, Mississippi

Leonard Papania
Police Chief of Gulfport, Mississippi

By Elaine Magliaro

Leonard Papania, the police chief of Gulfport, Mississippi, appears to be unhappy with his state’s open carry laws “after a man strolling through a Walmart Sunday night menaced shoppers by loading and racking shells into his shotgun…” The incident caused police to dispatch a SWAT team to evacuate the store. Papania said that “he would have arrested the unidentified man and his companion if he could for stretching the city’s police forces thin while panicked Walmart employees huddled in a safe room.”

On Monday afternoon, the Gulfport Police Chief held a press conference in order “to discuss a situation that had many Walmart shoppers terrified Sunday evening.” “That’s not normal,” Papania said when speaking “about two men who went into Walmart, Winn Dixie and Krispy Kreme armed with a shotgun.”


While openly carrying a firearm in Mississippi is legal, Papania said this situation could have turned into “a very violent misunderstanding.”

According to authorities, the two men walked into the Walmart on Highway 49 around 8 p.m. Witnesses said the man holding the shotgun was actively loading and racking the firearm. Walmart does not have a policy about guns inside its stores.

Papania said, “If I were in a situation where I’m in the store shopping with my family and I see an individual loading a 12 gauge, and racking it, I’m not coming to the conclusion this is good…While the actions of these two men are sanctioned by state laws, what they did negatively impacted our community.” Papania added that “his department’s resources were stretched thin while officers and the SWAT team responded to this situation.”

Tom Boggioni of Raw Story:

According to police they received multiple calls about the men who had possibly done the same thing at a local Winn-Dixie, forcing police to divert officers to the Walmart to form a perimeter as the SWAT entered and searched the store. By the time police had arrived, the two men had left.

Using surveillance video police were able to track the men down and speak with them, but due to Mississippi’s open carry laws, the chief said his hands were tied after conferring with city attorneys.

Papania said, “In our nation there continues to be violent events. Many of these tragic events start to unfold with very similar circumstances where individuals exhibit peculiar actions with firearms around large crowds. The actions of these two men could have inadvertently led to a very violent misunderstanding.”

When he was asked whether he thought that police had overreacted to the situation, Papania said absolutely not. He added, “You don’t have to look hard in today’s media and see demonstrations of very violent acts. And if I had been in the store last night watching someone load a shotgun and rack it — that’s not normal. And that’s [sic] usually precipitates a violent act.”


After saying “Our state law allows for this,” Papania said, “If there was something I could have arrested these people for, I would,” before concluding, “Gun laws should be such that it provides us security. As we look at this fact pattern, do you feel safer?”


Miss. police: Open carry laws kept us from arresting shotgun-toting man who terrorized Walmart shoppers (Raw Story)

Papania: Open carry situation could have turned into ‘violent misunderstanding’ (WMC/WLOX)


This entry was posted in Law Enforcement, Mississippi, Police, States, United States and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Police Chief of Gulfport, Mississippi, Says That Open Carry Incident in a Walmart Store Could Have Turned into ‘Violent Misunderstanding’

  1. Anonymously Yours says:

    Wow, the devil does deliver mischief in its details.

  2. blouise17 says:

    Ah yes … one needs say nothing more

  3. randyjet says:

    Well, it is after all Mississippi, they have the best politicians and judges money can buy. They are getting what they deserve. So I feel no pity for the cops or the shoppers.

  4. The Gulf coast, especially around Gulfport and Biloxi, are almost like a separate country from the rest of the state. The only comparison I can think of offhand is to compare Las Vegas with the rest of Nevada. It’s that different. As for Judges, I remember the case of Judge Vincent Cherry and his wife, Margaret. I had the opportunity to interview just about all the protagonists in that case.

    I don’t consider that one of the highlights of my career.

  5. po says:

    Can we safely assume that those men were NOT black?

    • randyjet says:

      Po That is hardly a question that needs to be answered OF COURSE THEY WERE WHITE! Two black men would have been shot down immediately. Just as that poor black guy in OH was killed when he simply had a toy gun that he was holding in the toy dept in Walmart and Walmart helped to cover up the killing.

  6. Bob Kauten says:

    Yes, they could not have been black, because the headline would read differently.
    They were, however, imbeciles that have no place in the gene pool.

  7. I. Annie says:

    It was white privilege that kept him alive. Black guy would’ve been shot on sight. The shooting of the black man buying a BB gun at the Walmart in Ohio comes to mind.

  8. blouise17 says:


    I understand what you are saying but I feel some sympathy for the cops. In many states during the flurry of these laws being passed, the Police Chief Associations came out against passage. I don’t know if Mississippi was one of them. All I am saying is that I do have some sympathy for the cops.

    • randyjet says:

      blouise, It is the cops themselves who voted for the people who passed this law. The more rightwing, and authoritarian , the more the cops love those politicians.

  9. blouise says:


    I think you live down South? If so, I am going to take your word for it. Up here in my area cops hate these laws. When I was a Civil Service Commissioner, I used to have to attend Police Chief Association seminars (CLE points). They were always railing against these laws.

    • randyjet says:

      I am a Texan, but I do have to admit our voters lack knowledge and rational thinking. They vote for the most corrupt politicians who can talk a good game, but sell them out every time. This is why they all hate public education and try and starve it. The people who count in Texas know enough to send their kids to private schools up North, so they can care less about the people they are supposed to represent.

  10. blouise17 says:

    However, the more I think about kit the more I have to agree about cops voting for the right-wing candidates. So maybe it is that they talk a good game but vote otherwise.

  11. po says:

    Blouise, I was sure that cops in general would be against those laws due to the nightmare of having to tell from a distance the good guy from the bad guy, and I was waiting with impatience for the time when open-carry Joe’s right to deposit a check while armed met with the immovable force that is the bank’s reluctance to conduct banking business with an armed individual…
    So I was surprised when what I heard from the cops seemed to support open carry laws as Randy says.

  12. blouise says:


    The cops I know say they oppose it but randyjet is right, most of them vote for the right-wing candidates. Me thinks I should listen with a forked ear.

  13. pete says:

    “Walmart does not have a policy about guns inside its stores.”

    I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that will probably change soon. They don’t want to be a target.

  14. blouise says:


  15. bettykath says:

    yep, has to be two white guys loading and racking. If they were Black, they would be dead.

  16. This entire incident causes me despair. Nuff said.

  17. Aridog says:

    Without getting in to the black versus white issue…this event is a classic example of why I object to “open carry.” Especially if it included long guns…short of a combat zone, that is just silly. It serves no genuine purpose, and usually fosters provocation or out right fear. I say that as a long time CPL (concealed weapon) holder who goes to fair lengths to assure at least the sidearm is not openly visible…albeit my choice of sidearm is a noticeable lump on my hip however covered by clothing otherwise. No has objected to my method that I know of to date. I am sure some notice it, but the “threat” level just isn’t there. I “carry” in an urban environment, frequently now, as civility seems to be breaking down in all too many places…that said it is my very last resort, always, and thus I’ve never had to pull it in public. Nor do I plan to do so. It is strictly a lives on the line matter, and that alone.

  18. Aridog says:

    That said above, I know a lot of police officers and none I know favor open carry for Joe Blow either. Our laws are fairly strict where I live, and even if open carry is technically allowed (actually it has been for decades) very few fools do it. You can bet I watch anyone who does carefully. No badge, dude, conceal your sidearm and don’t carry a long arm at all.

  19. BK,
    No matter if those idiots were black or white, they are lucky some citizen with a conceal carry permit did not throw down on them. Act like that in a public place in these tense times and you are in the running for a Darwin Award.

    I don’t have a problem with concealed carry as long as it is, as Aridog says, CONCEALED!!!

    Also, responsible and mature handling of the weapon, and only after being well trained. There is no reason for open carry unless you are an armed security guard, police officer, or clerking in a high-risk area place of business.

    The folks who feel they must display (prominently) a pistol on their hip must have some ego deficiencies. It’s the only explanation I can think of. And don’t even get me started on working the action of shotguns or rifles in public places. I have this vision of little 5’3″ Brandi having those “tough guys” spread-eagled on the floor at gunpoint if she were in the Walmart and caught them doing that. She was a licensed security guard, although you would never guess it if she wore civilian clothes.

  20. Aridog says:


  21. Aridog says:

    Chuck Stanley … I have a question for you, due to your experience and the fact we seem to agree on concealed carry versus open carry. Might sound silly, but I’m curious…just how big a “lump” on my hip can qualify as still “concealed?” My favorite is the FNX-45 by FN, a very safe .45 ACP (de-cocker &, thumb safety which totally disconnects the trigger from the sear, whether cocked or de-cocked), great trigger, far lighter than my M1911, but still bulky. How much bulk is too much?

  22. blouise says:


    Ever met a 70 year old female sexpot? Me either.

  23. I don’t know. Helen Mirren is 69 and she’s still pretty sexy, but then again at age 19 she could have set this entire blog on fire just by glancing its way. I think she’s a Cold War Russian genetic experiment. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  24. blouise17 says:

    RED was only surpassed by RED 2. Great movies but Helen Mirren is more of a macho woman than a sexpot. Rather like the Month Python Gangs of Old Ladies

  25. Emmylou Harris?
    Ari, dunno answer to that question. I suppose if it can be detected short of a patdown, it is not really concealed. The Lassie had a S&W Model 637 .38 hammerless airweight. Hammerless won’t get snagged on clothing and accidentally discharge. Wearing scrubs, it is not detectable. Tight jeans are another matter.

  26. Anonymously Yours says:

    Stevie Nicks comes dang close… Shy 2 years though…

  27. blouise says:

    Real macho women:

  28. bettykath says:

    Helen Mirren was real class at the Emmys.

  29. blouise17 says:


    Too true. Class always wills out.

  30. Aridog says:

    Chuck Stanley … that is what I was thinking, however the entire pistol is “concealed” from direct view, just bulky. Originally I carried a revolver like Celtic Lassie, but old version of the J-frame .38 (model 49) with a hammer shroud which still let you cock the hammer if you chose to do so (but still no snags)…and it has a fantastic trigger. Very concealable. I’ve tried a S&W 9mm Shield, with a thumb safety, also very concealable, but the trigger has deteriorated in short order from quite good to lousy…plan to see if a gunsmith can tune up that trigger…it is also very concealable due to small frame and single stack. My FNX-45 is the most reliable of the newer types and has a great crisp trigger…almost as good as my hardball target Kimber .45 ACP M1911….and has safety features found on few pistols…mostly FN or H&K. Guess I’ll have to wear extra blousey long shirts for summer, since safety is my foremost concern, then handling accuracy. Thanks for your opinion and answer.

  31. I carry a concealed principle.
    The best way to avoid trouble is not to be there when it starts.
    It does not show under my clothes.
    It will not hang on anything.
    It doesn’t require a license.
    It serves me well.

  32. bettykath says:

    Gene, I carry the same. I spent a year traveling in a motorhome. Before I left I was offered a gun and instructions on how to use it. I declined. I see no point in arming an attacker and no point in escalating a situation. My second motorhome had an NRA sticker on the door. Seemed like a good non-violent deterrent.

  33. Elaine M. says:

    I am in my late sixties and have never felt the need to own or carry a gun. Neither has my husband.

  34. swarthmoremom says:

    Same here, Elaine.

  35. FWIW, I have never carried unless I was wearing a badge. No need for a CCP so far (knock on wood). I have been known to slaughter unarmed and helpless paper circles and old tin cans.

    Our friend and occasional commenter Jim Foreman down in the DFW area has his own version of a CHL. Jim is 86 years old.

  36. blouise17 says:

    My second motorhome had an NRA sticker on the door. Seemed like a good non-violent deterrent. – bettykath


  37. po says:

    Reminds me back home…we are known for a talisman known as lapetakke…roughly translated to get-it-but-keep-ticking… for it enables the wearer mystical protection against gunshot…to survive a gun shot unscathed…where the bullet would not penetrate the skin.
    Senegalese tirailleurs who served in WW2 were known to wear it and supposedly mesmerized the German soldiers whose guns seemed unable to take them down.

    Later on, another provider started offering a better lapetakke. When asked why his was better, he said because the original was lesser for though it protected from the gunshot, it did not protect from the impact (which was known to knock people out…), while his worked not on the gun but on the conditions prior where the wearer would never be in any situation where a gun was to be pulled. When challenged, he asked his wearers, have you ever been in any situation where a gun was pulled? No one being able to infirm that, his became known as better.

  38. blouise17 says:

    because the original was lesser for though it protected from the gunshot, it did not protect from the impact (which was known to knock people out…), – po

    Lol. Great story

  39. Aridog says:

    Gene Howington said ….

    I carry a concealed principle…The best way to avoid trouble is not to be there when it starts.

    I carry the same principle and always adhere to it. Where I live trouble often just finds you, but situational awareness can ameliorate that most of the time. That said, though I’ve never pulled & fired a weapon other than when in uniform, I do not intend to caught off guard either, nor for anyone innocent to be viciously harmed in front of me. I used to “carry” only occasionally, now it is daily due to 3 confrontations that found me, recently, all of which were suppressed by manual means. That doesn’t mean the next one will be so easy. The very last thing I will ever do is pull my sidearm, and that will only be to avoid it being the very last thing I don’t do literally. Illegal weapons are everywhere and there is no way of knowing who will pop up with one. So I carry just to be a tiny bit safer. I respect those who do not, however, and appreciate their courage. My experiences have lead me down another path and I’d hope most people can understand that. I realize it might infer I am less courageous and I accept it. I remain the safest person you could ever stand next to anywhere. My sidearm does not make me feel good or tough, just secure in the environment I live in today. I won’t move and I won’t run…which may be my folly. So be it.

  40. Never underestimate the value of situational awareness. To quote Robert De Niro’s Sam from the film Ronin, “Lady, I never walk into a place I don’t know how to walk out of.”

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