Disabled Iraq war veteran Leonard Cottrell Jr. alleges New Jersey State Police attempted to confiscate his firearms last month without a warrant. He stood his ground, held to his Second Amendment rights, and did not let police take them.
Now, Cottrell is blaming a recently implemented New Jersey law, which he says targets law abiding gun owners.
Cottrell, 40, said he was working at Wawa on June 14 when he got a call from his wife around 9:30 p.m. that two police officers from the New Jersey State Police's Hamilton station were at the doorstep of his Millstone home.
The troopers, who patrol this sprawling Monmouth County township, were there, he said, because his 13-year-old son had made a comment at school about the Millstone Middle School's security, and the officers wanted to confiscate Cottrell's firearms as part of an investigation.
Cottrell said his wife allowed the officers to search their home, including his son's room, but they did not locate any weapons. Still, Cottrell said police wanted to confiscate his firearms — a shotgun and pistol — despite not having a warrant to do so.
But Cottrell, who served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was having none of it.
"No one from the state was going to take my firearms without due process," Cottrell told NJ.com.
Cottrell said the incident is related to a law New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed into law in March. The law allows police to seize guns from law abiding citizens who the state determines pose a threat to themselves or others — even without due process.
Cottrell said he questioned the officers who showed up to his house, asking if they were there because of the new law, but they "danced around the issue."
What did New Jersey State Police say?
Sgt. First Class Jeff Flynn, a spokesman for the state police, declined to say whether the Cottrell incident was related to the new law. However, he told NJ.com it was determined the Cottrells did not pose a threat.
"Troopers responded to Mr. Cottrell's residence in reference to the report of a possible school threat. Based on their investigation, it was determined that Mr. Cottrell's weapons did not need to be seized," Flynn said.
Despite being cleared as a threat, Cottrell said his son was not allowed to attend his school's graduation.
"He's upset. He didn't do anything wrong, and he doesn't understand why it happened - he was just having a conversation with nothing as far as threats. It shouldn't have blown up the way it did. But he understands it happened, there are consequences and there's fallout from his actions," Cottrell explained.