Council member walks out of city meeting over armed veteran
The City of Oak Harbor is getting national attention after a recent video posted to YouTube shows a city councilmember walking out in the middle of a meeting when he learned a resident was carrying a concealed weapon inside city chambers.
Mayor Scott Dudley says within the last week his inbox and voicemail have been inundated with hundreds of messages from people around the country in support of his decision to apologize for Councilmember Rick Almberg's actions during the Jan. 15 city council meeting.
"Right now, as we speak, I have well over 300 emails all from people who felt compelled to reach out and say, 'Thank you for standing up and defending this disabled vet,'" Dudley said.
That disabled veteran is Lucas Yonkman who served more than five years in Afghanistan. The incident that unfolded between Yonkman and Almberg during the last council meeting was recently uploaded to YouTube and currently has more than 63,000 views
During the meeting, Yonkman said he wasn't planning to speak but felt it was necessary to encourage the local community to defend their Second Amendment rights.
"I am a professional with a weapon," Yonkman said. "I carry a weapon every day for the purpose of protecting people."
Dudley said Yonkman originally attended the meeting thinking the council was going to discuss carrying guns in city parks. The issue had originally been on the council's agenda in December after the Second Amendment Foundation notified Oak Harbor its current city ordinance on this issue was unconstitutional.
"The law states citizens are not able to carry a firearm in public parks. The foundation pointed it out to council," Dudley said. "We are always concerned about liability, especially anytime you have an entity out there who talks about suing and they would have every grounds to do so."
Dudley said while the council had tabled the issue and it was not on the Jan. 15 agenda, Yonkman decided to take a few moments anyway and address the council on protecting the Second Amendment.
"American people should be very careful about messing with the Second Amendment and changing it," Yonkman told the council. "It's there not just for personal protection but the protection of the American people."
Following Yonkman's comments, Councilmember Rick Almberg wanted the mayor to ask if Yonkman was currently carrying a weapon at the meeting. Dudley deferred to the city attorney - asking if such a question could even be allowed.
"This is the time set aside for the council to accept citizen comments," responded Grant Weed, interim city attorney. "I am not sure that there is anything in your council rules or procedures that invite the council to ask questions in return, but if the individual is willing to answer the question that is fine."
Yonkman told the council he was comfortable answering and confirmed that, "Yes, I have a concealed carry permit, and I am concealed carrying at this moment."
After learning he was carrying a concealed weapon, Councilmember Almberg made a motion to ask anyone carrying a firearm in the chambers to check their weapon with the police chief or police department, or leave the chambers.
"That's my motion, and I am waiting for a second," said Almberg.
Councilmember Joel Servatius seconded the motion, and it was moved to a vote.
Almberg's motion failed 4 to 2 and that's when the councilmember told the mayor he was going to leave the meeting.
"I was disheartened and frustrated," Dudley said. "It didn't seem that the elected official was frightened or fearful prior to knowing this individual had a firearm but once he found out he was legally carrying in a public place this councilmember choose to make political point, grand stand, and walk out and no longer perform the duty they were elected to do - conduct the city's business that evening."
Attempts to contact Almberg have not been returned.
Dudley said since the Jan. 15 meeting he has not spoken to Almberg or Servatius.
After Almberg left the meeting, Dudley took a few moments and apologized to Yonkman.
"There is no reason why a citizen should ever be treated like that, or a disabled veteran," he said.
The mayor said he expects to see a full crowd at the next city council meeting, Feb. 5, where he plans to reintroduce updating the city's ordinance on carrying guns in city parks.
Complete video of the city council meeting, broken up in sections, can be seen on the city's website.