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Misty Fox was forced to leave 2018 Columbia County Fair even though she had concealed handgun license

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO  - The Columbia County Fair and Rodeo has taken place each summer for more than 100 years, but was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.A lawsuit filed in federal court earlier this summer alleges that the Columbia County fair board and Sheriff's Office infringed on a fairgoer's right to carry a firearm two years ago.

The lawsuit was filed by Misty Fox, a Lane County resident, on July 17. According to the complaint, Fox attended the Columbia County Fair in July 2018, bringing with her a legally possessed firearm.

While at the fair, Fox was allegedly approached by two employees of TCB Security Services, which was providing security at the fair. The employees asked Fox if she was carrying a firearm, but she did not answer. Fox was then approached by two Columbia County sheriff's deputies, Shawn McQuiddy and David Peabody, who asked to see her concealed handgun license.

Fox alleges she was detained by the two deputies, told to wait until a supervisor arrived. The deputies contacted Brian Pixley, another deputy at the time and now the sheriff, whom Fox said told her she could not be on the fairgrounds with her firearm.

Peabody told Fox she could either leave the fair or secure the gun in her car, the lawsuit alleges. Fox protested, but she was ultimately escorted from the fair by the deputies, she claims.

After leaving the fairgrounds, Fox was allegedly approached by the president of the county commissioner-appointed fair board, Butch Guess, who was also Fox's neighbor.

In the lawsuit, Fox claims that Guess told her that the fairgrounds were not public property, that he had the authority to decide if firearms were permitted on the fairgrounds, and that he had instructed the sheriff's deputies to remove Fox.

Peabody also told Fox she would be charged with first-degree trespass with a firearm if she returned to the fairgrounds, the lawsuit claims.

A few days after the fair, Fox received a letter from Chief Deputy Steve Salle, who had recently become the acting sheriff after Sheriff Jeff Dickerson retired.

In the letter, Salle admitted the deputies' conduct had been improper.

"I agree with you that we were in error in supporting the wishes of the management of the fairgrounds to ask you to remove the firearm from the property," Salle wrote.

He added, "In this case the individual making the request of the deputies was incorrect in their belief that the fairgrounds could limit the presence of firearms on the property. Unfortunately, the deputies present at the time were unaware of the exception in the statute and could not correct the misunderstanding held by the fairgrounds management."

Salle also said he had informed fairgrounds management and sheriff's deputies of the applicable regulations "to help ensure this does not occur again."

However, Salle also refuted Fox's allegation that she was detained and searched, writing that he had reviewed body camera footage from the deputies and saw no instance of Fox being physically restrained or frisked. Salle also rejected Fox's allegation that being asked to provide her concealed handgun license, which is permitted under state law, constituted an illegal search.

Most individuals are permitted to carry a firearm openly in Oregon, except in public buildings or on private property where prohibited. Only individuals with a concealed handgun license or certain law enforcement and military groups can carry a concealed firearm outside of their own property.

Concealed carry in Oregon is prohibited in court facilities, federal facilities, or private property if the business owner decides so.

Sheriff Pixley declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. Guess did not respond to a request for comment.

The fair board has seen high turnover in the past year. At the beginning of 2020, only one of the fair board's seven members were returning members.

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