RIVERDALE — A picture of a man at the counter with an assault rifle strapped to his back at JC Penney here has circulated to thousands of people on Facebook.
Cynthia Yorgason, of Ogden, said she took the picture around 2 p.m. Wednesday and posted it on her Facebook account because she didn’t agree with the man.
“I understand that Utah is an open-carry state,” Yorgason said. “I don’t think an assault rifle should ever be taken out in public.”
Yorgason said the way the man was carrying the gun, on his back much like a backpack, someone could have taken it from him.
“I understand that he had a concealed weapons permit and called dispatch and said he had planned to do this, so they were aware of this,” Yorgason said, explaining that she learned this information from news reports.
When dispatchers were called Thursday night, they said they had no record of the man calling.
Yorgason said her pictures were met with disapproval from those who have seen them.
“I just think it was wrong,” she said. “I think there are other ways to protest. … He was trying to make a statement. I don’t agree with his methods.”
She said people in the store were giving the man funny looks. She said she was in line behind the man and to his side when she snapped his picture.
The man, identified as Joseph Kelley, 22, told The Salt Lake Tribune he wanted to demonstrate that the weapons aren’t dangerous when handled by law-abiding citizens.
Kelley said he’s a former member of the military and alerted police in advance that he would be carrying the weapon, which he identified as an unloaded AR-15. He was also carrying a Glock 19c on his hip.
He said he received positive reactions from people who spotted him.
Local law enforcement authorities said they didn’t receive any calls related to the incident or any notice from Kelley, Riverdale City Police Lieutenant James Ebert said.
But if the gun is unloaded, “then you’re well within your rights to carry a firearm,” Ebert said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.