Haymarket's acting police chief, Sgt. Gregory Breeden, got his gun back yesterday.
Breeden had lost his right to carry a weapon two weeks ago after his wife accused him of breaking down their kitchen door with an ax and was granted a temporary restraining order. Breeden's attorney told a Warren County judge yesterday that Breeden's family was not in any danger and pointed out that it's not a crime to knock down your own door.
After two hours of testimony, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge William Sharp agreed, denying a request by Breeden's estranged wife to grant an order to keep Breeden away from the family for as much as two years.
"Swinging an ax against the door certainly involves violence, but it was not directly against a person," Sharp said. "He made no threats."
Breeden was filling in for his boss, Police Chief James E. Roop, who was on leave, when a judge issued a temporary restraining order barring Breeden from having contact with his family. Under Virginia law, that meant he also could not carry or purchase a firearm.
After yesterday's hearing, Breeden, 46, said that not being allowed to carry a gun while he was "in charge of the whole show" was "very awkward."
Town Council member Robert Weir, the police liaison, called the matter "an entire waste of time. There's no protective order, and there shouldn't have been one in the first place," he said. "We've had an officer off the street for no cause. It's amazing, the power of the protective order."
The domestic dispute -- and its effect on Breeden's employment as an officer -- was the second controversy in the past two months to hit the small police department in western Prince William County. This summer, Breeden and Roop, 49, were suspended for 15 days by the Town Council, whose members have never explained the cause of the suspensions, citing personnel reasons.
The two returned to work in July, but the small force has been racked with plunging morale.
About two weeks ago, Roop took a paid leave to tend to his ailing daughter, and Breeden, who is second in command, has been in charge ever since. But, because he couldn't carry a weapon, he was assigned to desk duty and was not making arrests, Haymarket Mayor Pamela Stutz said. Roop is expected to return to work Monday.
Witnesses testified that Tina and Gregory Breeden lived in separate areas of the same house in Warren County. On the night of Aug. 9, Gregory Breeden wanted to get a saw for cutting deer and hogs but could not get into the kitchen because it was locked, his attorney, Nancy B. Stephens, told the judge.
Tina Breeden testified that she was outside when she saw him with what appeared to be an ax and that she then rushed inside with other members of the family. They called 911.
After knocking down the kitchen door, Breeden retrieved his saw and was approached by sheriff's deputies with their guns drawn. He was handcuffed but was released and not charged.
"She placed herself on the other side of the door," Stephens told the judge. "The fear is not reasonable."
After the hearing, Tina Breeden said the judge's ruling alarmed her. "I'm fearful, and they're supposed to protect us," she said. "He knows exactly what he can get away without being held accountable," she said of her husband.
Gregory Breeden said his wife "doesn't have anything to fear at all." Breeden, who did not testify, also wanted to correct the record. He wasn't carrying an ax, he said. "It was a sledgehammer."