Trucker chronicles

In July of 1996, two OOIDA members from the Lone Star statefound themselves in a veritable hornet's nest that was only recently resolved.

E.L. and Keitha Selby of Rosharon, TX, doing business as Selby Trucking, have been trucking since 1979. They are staunch believers of their Second Amendment rights and carry unloaded firearms in their truck, but are strict to follow the letter of the law. E.L. is a former Texas deputy Sheriff. It's been two years since a threatening situation in caused E.L. to go for his guns, leading to subsequent arrest and a long unpleasant experience with California's court system. In October, the Texas couple reported the ordeal is over, their record cleared and they've now received their firearms back.

"We believe in the right to keep and bear arms," says E.L. Selby, "We keep two revolvers, a .44 magnum and a .357 magnum unloaded in our truck for emergencies." Selby says the .44 has never been fired and the .357 was the duty revolver he carried when he was a law officer in Amarillo, TX.

The weapons were confiscated by California authorities in July, 1996, after an altercation that compelled E.L. Selby to retrieve his firearms from the truck as a protective measure. No shots were fired, but the incident was the beginning of a two-year contest to clear their record, overturn a weapons charge and reclaim the firearms.

The husband and wife team had picked up the last of a load of produce near Santa Maria, CA, and pulled into a small truckstop off Highway 101 to eat. Afterwards, they climbed in the truck and pulled out toward the state road. Ahead, a pickup was stopped in the middle of the two-lane road, blocking their way. E.L. asked the men in the truck to move, but they ignored him. The men gestured for him to go around, but according to Selby, there wasn't enough space on the shoulder, so he refused.

A heated argument ensued. Inside the truck, Keitha was trying to call the highway patrol on the CB. As tempers flared, Selby was certain that he and his wife were in danger. He loaded his guns, climbed out of his cab and walked toward the men. Meanwhile, Keitha ran back to the truckstop, and found a phone booth. She was frantically dialing 911 when another pickup pulled up against the phone booth door, pinning her inside.

"It looked like both of us were in a real trouble," Selby told Land Line. Now armed, Selby says he threatened the men on the road and they climbed in their pickup and moved aside.

The other pickup drove off and both Selbys jumped back into the semi. As they rolled toward home, they noticed a white van following them. Ten miles later the van pulled even with the cab and the driver motioned the tractor-trailer over, but E.L. refused. It was not until a California Highway Patrol (CHP) car and a county deputy pulled up behind him that he finally stopped on the shoulder.

Unbeknownst to the truckers, one of the men with whom they had argued had called the police on a cell phone, identifying the Selbys as the troublemakers. The white van following them was a county coroner's van driven by the county deputy sheriff/coronor who had heard the call on his radio. Selby explained the story to the CHP officer and the county officer. The trucker mentioned that he was a retired deputy sheriff and member of the Sheriff's Association in Texas.

"After that, the CHP officer was pleasant," says E.L. "even the plainclothed deputy in the county coroner's van would have let us go."

But that didn't happen. The county deputy who had just arrived refused to believe the truckers' story. He searched the cab and took both guns. On Oct. 10, 1996, both E.L. and Keitha Selby were charged with having loaded weapons in the cab. A trial date was set and the Selbys went home to Texas where they contacted the National Rifle Association (NRA) who suggested John Dorwin, a CA attorney, who is experienced in cases that are connected to gun laws. Dorwin, later said, "The CHPs should have known the law and pulled the 'county mountie' off."

On Mar. 12, 1997, the Texans were back in California for the trial where a jury found them guilty of "carrying a loaded gun in the cab of the truck." The judge disallowed the 911 tapes. The truckers' attorney, Dorwin, cited Penal Code Section 12031 stating that "It is not illegal to have a gun in your place of business" but the Selbys say that defense fell on deaf ears. Husband and wife were both sentenced to three years probation, a $500 dollar fine, and 100 hours of community service to be served in their hometown.

In July of 1998, the attorney filed for appeal in Superior Court of California and this October, the couple got a call from Dorwin, who told them all charges have been dropped and the weapons had been returned.

"Sometimes you just have to keep fighting for what you believe in," says Selby. On behalf of the truckers, Dorwin has now filed a claim against the county of Santa Barbara asking for compensation for all fees and $10,000 for "malicious prosecution." LL 

by Donna Carlson