March 20, 2018 10:58:32 AM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
Three Georgia men were asked to leave Walmart in Columbus Monday night after entering the store carrying weapons in plain view.
Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton told The Dispatch the three men entered the store on Highway 45 at about 10 p.m. One man was carrying a M-4 assault rifle and wearing a tactical vest, while another man carried a handgun and the third man a machete.
A Walmart employee called the police, and after officers arrived, the store management asked the men to leave. Shelton said the men left peaceably without incident. They were not arrested.
"The men never threatened anybody in the store," Shelton said.
The three men claimed to be observing "open carry" by taking the weapons into Walmart. Shelton said they claimed to be transient workers on a job in Columbus who decided "to go shopping."
"I don't know why they decided to go shopping dressed like that," he said.
Shelton acknowledged Mississippi, like Georgia, is an open-carry state -- a state that allows citizens to carry weapons in plain view in public. However, businesses can still prohibit weapons in their facilities.
The Columbus Walmart does not have a sign prohibiting weapons posted at any of its entrances, but Shelton said that didn't matter.
"Businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone bringing weapons in," Shelton said. "Any time anybody goes into a store that is privately owned, they're going as a guest."
Shelton advised anyone who sees a person carrying a weapon to notify the police and give officers the opportunity to determine if there is a threat.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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