JACKSONVILLE, NC. – A Jacksonville Marine veteran is no longer allowed to stand guard outside of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in the city.
Matthew Benack, identified as a 20-year Marine veteran, said he would be at the shopping center on Western Boulevard with his gun to protect those inside the recruitment center.
“We’re not a force to play with,” Benack told WNCT. “The lion is ready to play and is always ready to play.”
Matthew Benack took up a sentry post outside the Center in Jacksonville, North Carolina in response to the deadly attack on five members of the U.S. military last week in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Police said the vet was within his constitutional rights to have a loaded weapon outside the center as long as the unidentified property owner gave permission.
Benack said the owner, represented by Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners, initially allowed him to be there, but quickly changed her mind. He was asked to leave Tuesday by the property management firm.
Benack said he hopes the owner will reconsider.
Grayson Powell, with Coldwell Banker Commerical Sun Coast Partners, issued a statement.
Westwood Village Shopping Center is a proud supporter of the military and has been honored to have the Army Recruiting Center as one of our valued tenants here for more than a decade. We value the sacrifices our armed forces make for this country each day and hold all branches of the military in the highest esteem.
We take the security of the recruiters in Westwood Village extremely seriously and are in communications with them about the best way to work together to ensure their safety and the safety of all of our tenants. Yet having an armed civilian who is not known to us, the recruiters or the police arrive to stand vigil in a busy shopping center has the potential to create an unsafe environment, and it is our responsibility to ensure both our tenants’ and customers’ safety.
As the property management firm for Westwood Village, we represent the interests of the owner. As such, we will continue to communicate on the owners’ behalf with the Army Recruiting Center and the Jacksonville Police Department on the best ways to ensure the safety and welfare of the recruiters and all of our tenants and customers.
Grayson Powell, Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners
by WNCT Staff