Man Arrested With Loaded Gun, Pot Shortly After Trial

OCEAN CITY — A Missouri man was arrested on weapons and drug charges this week an hour after appearing in court for the same charges from a case in December.

On Wednesday morning, John Hale, Jr., 24, of Poplar Bluff, Mo,, appeared in District Court in Ocean City to face charges of possession of a loaded handgun in a vehicle stemming from an incident in December. Hale pleaded guilty to possession of a loaded handgun in a vehicle and was placed on probation for one year. About an hour later, Hale’s vehicle was stopped in Ocean City, and the suspect was again found in possession of a loaded handgun along with marijuana.

Around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer patrolling in the area of 120th Street observed a vehicle allegedly roll through a traffic signal that had just turned from yellow to red. The officer initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle, but had difficulty discerning who or how many people were in the vehicle because of dark window tinting, according to police reports.

The officer made contact with the driver, identified as Hale, who opened the vehicle door because he said the windows were not functioning. According to police reports, the officer noticed an odor of raw marijuana emanating from the vehicle. During a subsequent search, Hale reportedly told the officer there was a handgun inside the vehicle.

The officer located a black, semi-automatic 9mm handgun in a holster in the center console with loaded magazine. The officer checked and found no rounds in the chamber. The officer noted in the report the handgun was not in a locked compartment and easily accessible to the drive. The search also revealed a backpack containing a pouch labeled “happy kit” with marijuana inside along with other marijuana throughout the vehicle including some in a thermos.

At that point Hale was arrested and agreed to speak with the officer. He reportedly told police he was in Ocean City on Wednesday morning to appear in court for charges of carrying a loaded handgun in his vehicle during a traffic stop in December.

Hale reportedly told police he pleaded guilty and was placed on probation. At the conclusion of his trial, Hale was instructed to report to the Ocean City Police property section to retrieve the handgun confiscated during the traffic stop in December. Hale retrieved that handgun and left it how it was packaged as evidence in the initial case.

Hale told police while he was awaiting trial for the December incident, he purchased a second handgun in his native Missouri, which was the weapon recovered during the traffic stop on Wednesday just an hour or so after he appeared in court. Hale reportedly told police he carries the weapon for self-protection and typically has it on his person or in his vehicle.

When asked where he was going, Hale told police after his court appearance and after he retrieved his original handgun seized as evidence, he was driving around Ocean City looking for a place to sleep in his vehicle before driving back to Missouri. He was charged with possession of a loaded handgun in a vehicle and on his person along with possession of over 10 grams of marijuana.

Hale acknowledged he had just come from court where he received probation for the same charges just a month earlier. He also acknowledged he was advised by the court on Maryland law regarding carrying a loaded handgun in a vehicle. Hale was taken before a District Court Commissioner and was held initially on a $3,000 bond. He was released on Thursday after posting bond and is scheduled to appear again in court for the latest charges on Feb. 15.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.