Amusement Park Faces Backlash After Asking Off-Duty Cop To Disarm

A social media post by a deputy's wife about her family being kicked out of an amusement park has gone viral.

Olmstead Falls, OH – The owner of an Ohio amusement park is speaking out after his business was accused of telling an off-duty sheriff’s deputy to leave the premises because he was carrying a concealed firearm.

“Out of all the groups, for someone to say we don’t support police or the military hurts the worst,” Swings-N-Things owner Tim Sorge told Blue Lives Matter on Monday.

“We support them in so many ways… because we believe in them… I love these guys,” he said.

In a since-deleted Facebook post, Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mike Zgrebnak’s wife, Carrie, explained that she and her family were asked to leave the Swings-N-Things amusement park in Olmstead Falls on Sunday, after an employee spotted the off-duty deputy wearing a concealed firearm.

“We were asked to leave because this park doesn’t support the law enforcement family,” Carrie’s post read. “Apparently one of the employees [just doing his job] had seen Mikes [sic] firearm [while getting in and out of go karts] and reported it.”

“Mike showed his badge and ID yet management still asked us to leave!” she wrote.

After the post quickly went viral, Sorge released a statement on the Swings-N-Things Facebook page to explain what had occurred.

Sorge said that Carrie’s post was “extremely troubling” to both him and his wife, who have operated the amusement park for the past 36 years.

“We’ve never had anything like this,” he told Blue Lives Matter.

According to Sorge, another guest at the park spotted Deputy Zgrebnak carrying a gun in a belt holster beneath his sweatshirt, and became concerned, the post read.

The guest then notified the park manager.

Sorge told Blue Lives Matter that other park visitors had no way of knowing that the officer, who was off-duty and not wearing a uniform, was a member of law enforcement.

“Someone walking around out of uniform with a gun is troubling,” he explained.

In the Facebook post, Sorge noted that the park manager approached Deputy Zgrebnak and told him that firearms are not permitted inside the park – a rule that is also specified on signs at the park’s entrance.

“The gentleman identified himself as an off-duty police officer and [said that] as such should be permitted to continue to carry his firearm while in our park,” Sorge explained. “We respect his opinion but disagree with it.”

Sorge told Blue Lives Matter that Swings-N-Things contracts with local law enforcement agencies to have uniformed, armed police officers on duty at the park on the weekends, and that they bring in even more officers during their frequent big events.

“We have one of the best safety records in the entire industry,” Sorge explained. “We’ve also done active shooting drills with our employees with the help of the police.”

Concerned that there might have been a law he was unaware of, the park manager even called the Olmsted Township Police Department after the incident to ask if the park was required to allow off-duty officers to carry concealed weapons on the premises, Sorge explained.

The park manager was assured that firearm restrictions were dependent upon the policies of the park, according to Sorge.

“I’m not going to apologize for our policy, and I’m not going to change our policy,” he told Blue Lives Matter.

“Our manager simply asked him to take his gun to his car but the officer did not feel he should have to do this and elected to leave the park,” Sorge explained in the Facebook post. “His family was given full day passes to enjoy the park sometime in the future.”

“We did not kick them out,” he emphasized during his interview with Blue Lives Matter.

Despite the fact that most other amusement parks also prohibit firearms on the premises, many social media users blasted Swings-N-Things for not making an exception for Deputy Zgrebnak.

Some users argued that officers are required to carry their weapons even when off-duty, but Lake County Chief Deputy Frank Leonbruno told Blue Lives Matter that their office does not have such a mandate.

Although Lake County deputies can legally carry their weapon while off-duty, businesses also have the right to prohibit firearms on their property, Chief Leonbruno explained.

“What troubles us most are the comments that are being made about us on facebook,” Sorge’s post continued. “I cannot imagine many businesses that support our local first responders and our military as much as we do – and have done so for the past 36 years.”

Swings-N-Things also hosts free events for first responders, so they can enjoy the park at no charge, he told Blue Lives Matter.

Sorge said he was especially “appalled at how police were being portrayed” during President Barak Obama’s administration, and said he works closely with Olmsted Township Police Chief Matthew Vanyo to help support various pro-police causes in the community.

“We have a large sign in our Gameroom stating our support for these brave citizens,” Sorge reiterated in his Facebook post. “We have always financially supported causes that support these groups.”

“We are staunch conservatives, members of the NRA and totally support every aspect of our constitution,” he wrote. “I think if you ask our local law enforcement community or our community leaders, they will tell you how ‘off-base’ these posts are.”

Carrie had not responded to Blue Lives Matter’s request for comment as of press time.

UPDATE: On Tuesday night, Deputy Zgrebnak and his wife provided a statement to Blue Lives Matter regarding their visit to Swings-N-Things.

Deputy Zgrebnak said he has carried his concealed firearm during his annual trips to the park for the past five years "without issue."

After he was questioned by management, the deputy confirmed he was given the option of storing his firearm in his vehicle or leaving the park.

"Leaving a firearm in a vehicle is not an option I was comfortable with so my only option was to leave with my family," Deputy Zgrebnak wrote.

Since they had only been at the park for approximately 20 minutes before the incident occurred, the deputy requested that his family's tickets be refunded.

"Instead, we were given passes to attend another day," he said. "To avoid any conflict, we accepted them."

Deputy Zgrebnak said the manager was "professional and kind the entire time," and noted that they shook hands before he left the park with his family.

"We would like everyone to know that we have no bad feelings toward the business nor its owners," the deputy wrote. "My family and I have had several enjoyable days at the park and we would encourage people to continue to patronize the park."

Deputy Zgrebnak described Swings-N-Things as a "good, family friendly location," and said the business has "every right to not want weapons on their property."

"We respect their right," he concluded.

Comments (56)
No. 1-19
Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

bring a pistol to an amusement park? the absolute dumbfuckery.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

“Someone walking around out of uniform with a gun is troubling.” He should have just made a man with a gun call over 911 to his local police department. That would have worked better to get his point across.

M4D
M4D

Law enforcement officers must respect the rules & laws just as any other citizen when they are "off duty". Too many officers believe they are above the law. To the contrary, LE should never consider themselves above the law, or exempt from the policies of a business. Sorry guys, but that is just the way it is, and all LE is under a microscope for just these kinds of "privileged assertions".

Jimmyd2
Jimmyd2

Any business that fails to appreciate having a trained and armed first responder in their midst is foolish. If the ticket office.arcade or snack bar are being robbed in this officer's presence, count on an appropriate and amazing armed response. FOR FREE!

FpsK9Handler
FpsK9Handler

All of you are idiots! I am pretty sure none of you are cops. I carry everywhere I go...the only exception is NFL games which I dont go to anyways. Just because we carry off duty doesn’t mean that we are going to get involved in a incident....But most of us do and will. This park owner says he is a NRA supporter? BS. If he was he wouldn’t have a problem with someone carrying concealed much less a bonified cop.

Zgrebs
Zgrebs

This past Sunday my family and I went to Swings and Things to spend the day with our children just as we have once a year each of the last five years. Being an off duty deputy, I have always carried my firearm without issue at the park. This past Sunday, however, somebody observed I was carrying my weapon when I was exiting a go cart and reported it to management. I was approached by the on duty manager who asked if I was armed. I informed him I was. He stated the park has a no firearms policy. I reiterated I was off duty and showed him my badge and police ID. He told me I could place my weapon in my vehicle or we would have to leave the park. Leaving a firearm in a vehicle is not an option I was comfortable with so my only option was to leave with my family. As we had only been at the park for approx. 20 minutes, I asked for a refund. Instead, we were given passes to attend another day. To avoid any conflict we accepted them. After a brief conversation with the manager, who was both professional and kind the entire time, we shook hands and my family and I left the park. Shortly after leaving, my wife posted on Facebook about our disappointment with the parks policy. To our surprise the post spread very quickly with the news media eventually becoming involved. My wife and I were completely shocked. Upon reading the posts there were many disparaging things posted about Swings and Things as well as us. We would like everyone to know that we have no bad feelings toward the business nor its owners. My family and I have had several enjoyable days at the park and we would encourage people to continue to patronize the park. It is a good, family friendly location. They have every right to not want weapons on their property and we respect their right.

Mike and Carrie Zgrebnak

bronx163
bronx163

You carry a shield you carry a gun. They should be happy there was an off duty cop there to take action in the event of an active shooter. If you are a cop and out with your family you better be armed. Cops are the only ones who have to wear name tag and serve the public. That being said people will google your address and stalk you. You dont know what perp you have dealt with will Make an attempt on you or your family.

Its just bs how people attack the sheepdogs of society. Hate the police i would say on patrol hate the services provided stop calling 911.

You dont attack those who are the buffer of stability and chaos in society.

1HotZ28
1HotZ28

You hit the nail right on the head! ! ! With some of the "wilder" rides - what IF the weapon came loose and dropped, fell, or was flung out of the ride - just having the weapon hit someone could cause severe injury WITHOUT pulling the trigger. And if a child picked it up - how was the child to know that it was real ??? He/she could pull the trigger - then what ! ? ! I keep mine locked in a safe in the trunk (welded to the frame area so it can't be pried out and to keep it secure in case of an accident) with instant (fingerprint) access when I go to a park or any other establishment that does NOT allow weapons on premises. Why look for trouble.

dsmarine
dsmarine

To say what I really think I would have to be crude so I will just say I agree with the officer! My firearm will not accidentally fall out! I am a retired Marine CCH holder!

Deputy59
Deputy59

I’m a Deputy in Ohio. I carry EVERYWHERE! We actually have a Captain The if he sees you out off duty he will ask to see your gun and extra mag. If you don’t have them, expect an ear full. Obviously unless you’re out drinking. Most places that have the “no weapon” sign is just for CCW holders. And those signs don’t apply to certified LEO’s. Legally we can carry anywhere we want. Actually, anywhere in the country (LEOSA act) and those weapons can be concealed at all times. I’ve came across people that think if you’re carrying a gun and a badge that your weapon has to be visible. I carry both every day and never show either unless I’d have to. Now as far as places not wanting weapons due to having “armed security” or off duty cops, that’s cool, but if I’m working one of those details and something bad happens I want as many good guys there armed as possible. If an off duty cop gets taken out of the fight, who’s going to stop the bad guy shooting?

SgtBJC
SgtBJC

@Deputy59 Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act: Off-limit Areas?

By James M. Baranowski, Esq. NRA-ILA During a recent presentation on LEOSA at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association Conference (ILEETA), I addressed the fact that individuals carrying under LEOSA do not qualify for the same exemptions some state permit holders benefit from in terms of carrying concealed firearms in Federal Parks and Gun Free School Zones (GFSZ). The surprised looks and concerns from the audience raised a giant red flag: if the experts out there don't know this, how many others may be unknowingly violating the law?While LEOSA affords qualified active and retired law enforcement officers the privilege to carry a concealed firearm in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and all other U.S. possessions (except the Canal Zone), it does contain some restrictions. Explicitly written into the statute are several areas considered off-limits to those carrying under LEOSA, such as restrictions imposed by private persons or entities on the their property and those imposed on state or local government property, installations, buildings and parks. What is not included in the statute is where problems may arise.

retiredcop
retiredcop

I certainly agree with his decision not to put his weapon in the car. How many guns are stolen out of vehicles? Far more than there are accidental shootings in amusement parks by off-duty police.

Yell2017
Yell2017

I am so tired of how law enforcement is being treated.

Old Hawg
Old Hawg

@SgtBJC You are absolutely correct. ANYONE can restrict or prohibit the carrying of a firearm under LEOSA on the premises they own or control. That's what the law says and as LEO's we're expected to obey it. Your privilege to carry a firearm does NOT trump their privilege to declare that you can't on their premises. If you are carrying and go to a place which prohibits firearms, do what I did. I installed a sturdy gun safe secured under a seat in my vehicle and that's where I secure my firearm should I go somewhere I can't carry it. It's not fool-proof but it will deter a thief who doesn't want to take the time, effort, or make the noise necessary to steal my pistol.

tfort
tfort

I think people forget that the employees have to follow the rules. I bet they are told that no one can bring a gun into the park, so that is what they did. We all have employment rules, procedures and agreed upon requirements. So, given this care, the employees did as they should.

Katarina
Katarina

@M4D I disagree. They are never off duty, and they are permitted to carry their weapon for that very reason.

BlueLM101
BlueLM101

I'm going to take a potentially unpopular stand on this issue. The park is a privately owned property and they have the right to restrict who or what they allow on that property, within the confines of the law. And @Old Hawg stated it partially correct, "the right to carry, "not privilege", doesn't trump the right of the property owner to restrict what can or can't be brought on their property". Now, before I am lambasted for this, I am a staunch 2nd Amendment advocate. Heck, I even have it tattooed on my person. I'm a NRA life member as well as an avid outdoorsman and hunter. The potential risk here is what if the firearm happens to fall from it's holster while the carrier enters, exits or during the operation of a ride. The risk of an accidental discharge, though small, is still a legitimate concern.

NYPD_retired
NYPD_retired

I have a total of 30 years LE experience, I took my family to six flags in NJ, there were signs all over saying No Weapons allowed in park, since we were walking thru metal detectors and I didn’t want to set it off I asked what the procedure was. They had a gun check room and they gave you your own key, better than leaving it in your car. I didn’t feel I needed it while enjoying myself with my family. And no worries about who was going to possibly see it.

Lbbike24
Lbbike24

I’ll tell you what my FTO told me over 30 yrs ago. It’s called a concealed weapon. If someone see’s your weapon then your doing it wrong. He should know better.