Category Archives: legal

Lapeer Clark Station Shooting

Why was the Lapeer Clark Station Shooting 1st Degree Murder and not Self-Defence?

Photo Credit: (Roberto Acosta |

(The following description of the events was taken from various news sources, court documents, and prosecutor’s statements. We also interviewed a Jury member who was part of the trial and had seen the surveillance video and video of the police interview.)

On Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, sometime around 7:00 a.m. Jeffrey Lee Smith drove his car to the Clark gas station on M-24 in Lapeer to get gas, cigarettes, and a coffee. Something he had apparently done often.

Smith parked at one of the pumps towards the north end of the pumps (pump 1 or 2).

After going inside to pay, Smith attempted to leave via the north side of the east exit/entrance (one large drive with no traffic controls – see photo). As he pulled from the pump towards the road to leave the parking lot onto M-24 he appeared to use the left side of the drive, which inadvertently blocked the path of an incoming truck driven by Arthur Lee Kohn III and Kohn drove onto the grass to the north of the entrance and stopped his truck.

The men exchanged words while their vehicles were within feet of each other. Kohn stayed in his truck but Smith opened his door, stepped up briefly, then got back into his car and pulled on to southbound M-24. Smith later told the police that he had opened his door to hear Kohn because his window didn’t work and he had not exited the vehicle.

Kohn then proceeded into the lot, while Smith turned into the quick oil change place next door and continued back into the south entrance to the Clark station and next to pump 8 on the south end.

Smith (according to the statement he later gave police) had possession in his vehicle of a .38 Special revolver and had moved it from his center console to his jacket pocket after the initial altercation.

Smith, a valid CPL holder, claimed that he was coming back to ‘warn the employees’ about Kohn. He also  admitted that after the verbal altercation with the victim, he took a .38 caliber Smith and Weston handgun out of his console and put it in his pocket ‘just in case.’

Legally (per Michigan law) he was in possession of the firearm the whole time – he did NOT leave to go ‘get the gun’ as had been misunderstood from media reports.

Kohn saw Smith and drove his truck across the lot, parking next to Smith’s passenger side (not blocking his path).

Smith, while still seated in his car with the driver’s side next to pump 8, appears to roll his passenger side window down and raise his hand toward Kohn with the firearm aimed in his direction.

Kohn then got out of his truck to approach Smith carrying a crowbar, but he was holding it to his side in a way that Smith could not see it (according to the store’s video and the statement given by Smith to Detectives, Smith did not know about the crowbar at this point).

Kohn reaches into Smith’s car with his arm and pushes the hand holding the gun away and Smith shoots him once, in the arm.

At that point Kohn brings up the crowbar and tries to swing it at Smith inside the car, possibly scratching him in the process. Smith shoots Kohn a second time striking him in the thoracic aorta.

Kohn then walks around the car to the driver’s side and strikes the car with the crowbar and Smith drives away to park by the building.

Kohn tries to walk towards the building but falls onto the pavement behind another parked vehicle.

Smith went inside the building and asked the clerk to call the police at 7:15 a.m.

Kohn died from the gunshot wounds. An autopsy also revealed that Kohn’s blood alcohol level at the time of his death was .14, and that he had been using cocaine.

Smith was interviewed by the police that day, claiming self-defense, and was released. He waived his right to an attorney.

After video evidence was reviewed, and almost a month later, charges were brought against Smith, including open murder, felonious assault, carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, felony firearm, and a misdemeanor charge of brandishing a firearm in public.

Prior to the trial, there was a debate in court (and later the Michigan Supreme Court) about messages that Smith had sent someone about a month before the shooting. The Michigan Supreme Court Ruled that some of the Facebook content could be used.

Specifically, the defendant’s claim that another individual was “lucky he stayed in the truck the way he was acting he would of ate a 45 auto if he would of approached my impala,” is indicative of whether the defendant was legitimately acting in self-defense or whether he had planned to use deadly force against anyone who approached his vehicle during a verbal confrontation. (Read the details in the Michigan Supreme Court ruling here)

A Lapeer County jury on Friday found Smith guilty of first-degree murder and felonious use of a firearm after a short deliberation. I am told that most of the discussion centered around whether Smith was guilty of 1st or just 2nd-degree murder. Apparently, the prior statements were used to convince them that Smith planned to “use deadly force against anyone who approached his vehicle during a verbal confrontation”.

Smith did not testify in his trial.

Pistols Prohibited?

In Michigan, otherwise legally carried and concealed pistols are prohibited for most people at the following places under Michigan law – even if you have a CPL. These places are commonly referred to as “Gun Free Zones” but they aren’t actually gun-free. In Michigan, you might be able to carry a rifle, or open carry a pistol legally. And of course, people who don’t follow the law might still be carrying too.

In most cases, the prohibition does not include the parking areas of the places listed.

  • School or School Property
  • Daycare center, child-caring agency, child-placing agency
  • Sports arena or stadium
  • Bar or Tavern (where the primary source of income is the sale of liquor consumed on-site).
  • Churches (any property owned or operated by a place of worship – unless the presiding official permits it)
  • An entertainment facility with a seating capacity of 2,500+ (see AG Opinion No. 7120)
  • Hospital
  • Dormitory or classroom of a community college, college, or university
  • Casinos

Please refer to MCL 28.425o for the complete text with exceptions and penalties for the above list.

There are also many other places prohibited by other laws (other than MCL 28.425o), court cases, private property rights, etc.

  • Courts (or other space used for official court business – (AO 2001-1 of the Michigan Supreme Court – Contempt of Court)
  • Correctional facility (any jail, mental health facility, etc.) (MCL 800.283)
  • Federal Facilities (18 USC § 930)
    “Federal Facility” means a building or part thereof owned or leased by the Federal Government, where Federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties. Must be posted conspicuously at each public entrance to a Federal facility.Examples: Federal Court, Federal Prison, IRS, Social Security, Department of Labor, Military Base, etc.
  • National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges are permitted, but you may not possess a firearm in a Ranger Station, Visitor Center, bathroom, or any other US Government facility on these properties that are posted.
  • US Post Offices (all property, even parking, etc.) (39CFR, 232-1, title 39, paragraph L (I)
  • Indian Reservations – some honor State of Michigan CPL, some do not.
  • Airports – secure areas of commercial airports are prohibited (don’t go past the signs at TSA checkpoints) but you can check firearms in checked baggage if your firearm is legal at your destination. More details.
  • Amtrak – similar to airports, but there are no checked baggage stations in Michigan. (Public Law 111-117 Section 159)
  • Private Properly – any that are posted with a NO GUN sign. (Trespassing – MCL 750.552)
  • A place of employment MAY prohibit an employee as a condition of employment.
  • A public university may be able to enforce a local ordinance – see this case. U of M Ordinance. Wayne State Ordinance.
  • An educational institution MAY prohibit a student or faculty as a condition of enrollment or employment.

Current as of March 2023. For more Michigan concealed carry information see – and be sure to sign up for our email newsletter for updates.

Can I borrow a pistol?

Yes! If you have a CPL, you can legally borrow a pistol in Michigan.

For most people, borrowing a pistol in Michigan would require that the pistol is obtained or transferred through a background check and registration process, either by getting a permit from your local law enforcement agency or by transferring it using a licensed firearms dealer that will conduct the same background check as the local law enforcement agency does through the NICS system.

The law that requires the pistol license and registration is MCL 28.422, Section 2. (1). Section 2. (1) of MCL 28.422 states:

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this act, a person shall not purchase, carry, possess, or transport a pistol in this state without first having obtained a license for the pistol as prescribed in this section.

There are a few exemptions to this process allowed for in Michigan law for law enforcement, military (if being used for their employment), and CPL holders.

Yes, if the borrower is a CPL holder AND the loaner legally owns the pistol. The loaner DOES NOT need to be a CPL holder.

MCL 28.422, Sec. 12, (1) (i) states:

Section 2 does not apply [if the] individual carrying, possessing, using, or transporting a pistol belonging to another individual, if the other individual’s possession of the pistol is authorized by law and the individual carrying, possessing, using, or transporting the pistol has obtained a license under section 5b to carry a concealed pistol or is exempt from licensure as provided in section 12a.

This means that if you legally own a pistol you can loan it legally to someone as long as they have a CPL in Michigan (or are exempt from needing one, for example: A United States citizen holding a license to carry a pistol concealed upon his or her person issued by another state).

Moving to Michigan with a valid concealed carry permit CCW?

Michigan’s CPL (concealed pistol license) application requirements state that an applicant must be:

  • a citizen of the United States
  • a legal resident of Michigan
  • have resided in this state for not less than 6 months OR if you have a valid concealed carry permit from the state you are moving from, the 6-month waiting period is waived.

You are considered a resident of Michigan once you obtain a driver’s license, personal identification card, or register to vote. (see the complete statute for military residency requirements).

Michigan does not recognize permits from other states unless you are a resident of that state, so once you do establish residency here, your out-of-state permit is not valid for concealed carry in Michigan.

You will still need to take the Michigan CPL training course before you apply because no other state’s training meets the requirements of Michigan’s law, but you can speed the process up by taking the course before you establish residency.

Let me repeat that: If you don’t want to be without a valid license to carry any longer than you have to, you should take your CPL Course BEFORE you “establish residency here” so that you can apply the day you establish residency.

After you have filed your completed application, the approval process usually only takes a couple of weeks and no more than 45 days. More about the process here.

VERY GOOD CLASS! Dean did a great job. The setting was relaxed, friendly, and appropriately interactive. On the range, it was no-nonsense, safety first, with excellent personalized instruction. I benefited greatly from the training perspective of an ambush situation and the “balance of speed and precision” drills. I am a California CCW holder moving to Michigan so I’ve been through an approved training class. Dean’s range portion of the class was superior in my opinion as he taught us more “real life” tactics without the drill sergeant approach. When we move I plan to bring my wife for some additional personal training. – Jeff Holm


Carrying out of State

I am currently down south mixing business with pleasure.  While most of you are aware that 39 other states recognize your Michigan CPL, you must still be aware of the specific restrictions pertaining to where and how you can carry when you leave the state.

Since I am in Florida this week, I thought I would share a review of the laws here as an example.

One good source of basic information about Florida gun laws is the NRA website.  It covers a summary of things like getting a permit and stand your ground laws.  Some states have magazine capacity restrictions, but those are mostly states that don’t recognize our CPL anyway, as Florida does.

For most states, there are two things to which you have to pay specific attention: where you are prohibited from carrying, and what the procedure is for encounters with police.

In Florida, the prohibitions are a little different than they are in Michigan, so I took a look at the state statutes on the subject here.

Here is the pertinent section as of my writing, with my notes highlighted:

(12)(a) A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into: (note the added prohibition for open carry)

1. Any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05; (make sure you check the link for their definition)

2. Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station;  (totally different than Michigan)

3. Any detention facility, prison, or jail;

4. Any courthouse;

5. Any courtroom;

6. Any polling place; (totally different than Michigan)

7. Any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district; (totally different than Michigan)

8. Any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof;  (totally different than Michigan)

9. Any school, college, or professional athletic event not related to firearms;

10. Any elementary or secondary school facility or administration building;

11. Any career center; (In Michigan this would be DHS offices, etc.)

12. Any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, which portion of the establishment is primarily devoted to such purpose; (only the portion that is primarily devoted to alcohol?  Not sure how to define those limits without crossing the lines?)

13. Any college or university facility unless the licensee is a registered student, employee, or faculty member of such college or university and the weapon is a stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon or device designed solely for defensive purposes and the weapon does not fire a dart or projectile;

14. The inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport, provided that no person shall be prohibited from carrying any legal firearm into the terminal, which firearm is encased for shipment for purposes of checking such firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on any aircraft; or

15. Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law.

(b) A person licensed under this section shall not be prohibited from carrying or storing a firearm in a vehicle for lawful purposes.

Then you have to look at the laws that apply to a private business and whether or not they can restrict your rights to carry.

I found that Florida has a statute entitled, “Protection of the right to keep and bear arms in motor vehicles for self-defense and other lawful purposes,” which basically says …

No citizen can or should be required to waive or abrogate his or her right to possess and securely keep firearms and ammunition locked within his or her motor vehicle by virtue of becoming a customer, employee, or invitee of any employer or business establishment within the state, unless specifically required by state or federal law.

Isn’t it nice that they recognize that someone should not be allowed to take away our rights? Yea, unless they decide to make a law that does.

Then they go on to give a whole bunch of specific exemptions for other places, and you will have to read yourself to see if they apply to you.

The other area I am concerned with is interaction with police. I know that when traveling with out-of-state plates, you are an easy money target – police know that you will not come back to fight a traffic ticket when you are traveling from out of state.

I found that Florida law does not require you to disclose possession of a firearm on contact with Law Enforcement, like Michigan does. Interesting.

Also, you can not carry into or out of the airport in Florida, like you can in Michigan (and most states).

*Be sure to check the laws yourself before traveling outside of Michigan. I recommend doing this each time you travel out of state, as laws do change quite often in some areas.

Stopped by Police

Michigan law requires:

An individual licensed under this act to carry a concealed pistol and who is carrying a concealed pistol and who is stopped by a peace officer shall immediately disclose to the peace officer that they are carrying a pistol concealed upon his or her person or in his or her vehicle. [MCL 28-245f]

If you are stopped while driving (notice the law does not say “while driving,” but we’ll cover that in more detail later) you should carefully consider the following:

Try to pull over in a well-lit area as soon and as safely as possible (whether or not you are carrying). Consider turning off on a side street or onto an exit ramp, rather than stopping on a busy highway if there is one nearby. If that is not possible, get as far off the roadway as you can, to make it safer for both you and the officer. Once you have come to a stop, turn the interior lights on, roll your window down, and turn the vehicle off.

Don’t make any quick moves, or start digging through your glovebox or under your seats for any reason at this point. Leave your firearm where it is, and that should not be somewhere that is visible to the officer.

Your driver’s license and your CPL card should already be together, somewhere it is very easy to get to. If possible (without digging around for them) have them in your hand before the officer reaches your window, and place your hands on the top of the steering wheel where the officer can see them as he approaches you.

You should ask everyone in the car to sit still, keep their hands where the officer can see them, and shut their mouths during the stop unless you or the officer speaks to them. If someone else in the car has a firearm, you should also have their CPL and driver’s license ready.

As soon as the officer greets you, you should slowly hand your driver’s license and CPL to the officer and advise the officer that you are (or are not) carrying. Something like, “Hello, officer. I have a license to carry, and I am carrying a pistol.” Another option would be to have a card that you had the officer immediately that says this; “I am carrying a concealed pistol either on my person or in my motor vehicle as authorized by my valid Michigan CPL.”

Never use a statement like, “I have a gun,” or anything like that. Sometimes using the word “gun” may cause a less experienced officer (say the nervous young recruit that you didn’t see walking up to the passenger side window of your car in the dark) to overreact.

Every officer I have ever seen has been very professional and polite in these circumstances if you handle them correctly. Usually, he will ask where the firearm is, and then say something like, “Great! You keep your hands away from yours and I’ll keep my hands off mine.”

Remember to keep your hands where the officer can see them and don’t make any quick movements during the encounter.

Be polite and compliant with the officer; now is not the time to debate your rights. As a CPL holder, you do NOT have the right to remain silent about your carrying status (you gave up that right when you applied for the permit).

Never get out of your car unless you are asked to do so.  Here is a good example of what NOT to do.  Here is another.

In certain circumstances, a police officer may want to take possession of your firearm. If this happens, follow the officer’s directions very carefully. He should not ask you to hand him the gun under any circumstances, as this would be very dangerous for both you and him. If you think the officer is asking you to touch your firearm I would suggest you politely object and ask for clarification.

The police officer will return the firearm at the end of the stop unless the individual is being charged with a violation that allows for the weapon to be seized.

Most police officers understand that a law-abiding citizen with a CPL that follows the law and discloses the fact that they are carrying is not a threat to them. A criminal carrying an illegal gun without a permit doesn’t normally announce that to an officer.

What if you have contact with a police officer outside of your car?

The drafters of Michigan’s statute wanted to make it clear that you are considered in possession of the gun while you are in the car with the gun, even if it is not actually in your pocket or holster. If you are not in your car, and the gun is in your car, you are not “carrying” or in possession of the gun. However, an argument could be made that if it is within your “lunge area,” meaning you can easily reach it in one quick motion, it is in your possession. So, if you are standing near your car, there is a gun in the car, and you are “stopped,” meaning you are having some kind of official interaction with the officer (as opposed to simply saying “nice day isn’t it” as the officer walks by), you should probably disclose. I recommended that you disclose whenever in doubt. There is no negative legal consequence for disclosure. The only negative consequence comes from a failure to disclose.

What if you are not in possession of a pistol?

If you are stopped by the police there is no requirement to disclose that you are licensed if you are not in possession of a pistol. However, if the police officer checks to see if you are licensed and you haven’t yet disclosed whether or not you are in possession some officers will question you about it. It’s your decision, but I prefer to get ahead of this possibility by advising the officer ahead of time. The worst thing about disclosing when you DO NOT have your pistol in your possession is the harassment you might get from the officer. I have heard officers say things like “it’s not going to help you if you leave it home” or something like that, but I have personally had no officer stop me in the last 30 years when I was not carrying.