Brandishing Gun to Students Leads to Removal–and Then to Federal Court

After boarding a school bus over the driver’s objections to confront students who hit him with an object from the bus, and then brandishing a gun for the students to see, a training tech at an Air Force base was fired. He went to federal court to try to get his job back.

The Air Force’s Defense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, fired a training technician as the result of an altercation between him and high school students riding a school bus. The fired employee has failed in his bid to get the Merit Systems Protection Board and now the appeals court to overturn his removal. (Jaramillo v. Department of the Air Force, C.A.F.C. No. 2008-3228 (nonprecedential), 11/6/08) The facts are taken from the court’s decision.

Jaramillo’s problems began when he was driving while off-duty and was hit in the face by what was apparently a cap from a pen that had been thrown from a school bus. He spotted several students on the bus laughing at him. The students and Jaramillo began shouting and cursing back and forth. Jaramillo ended up following the bus and boarding it–over the driver’s objections–to confront the students. When one student admitted throwing the object, Jamarillo went to his truck and pulled out a BB gun that he brandished for the students to see. The students claimed that he had pumped the gun and then drove away. (Opinion, pp. 2-3)

The police were called to the scene to investigate and were separately contacted by Jaramillo once he got home. Eventually Jaramillo was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He ended up pleading nolo contendere and was given 2 years probation. (p. 3)

Apparently not very amused, the Air Force removed Jamarillo. He appealed to the Board where an Administrative Judge held a hearing and found that the evidence supported the conclusion that Jamarillo had committed felony assault with a deadly weapon. (p. 4)

The AJ then reviewed the reasonableness of the penalty. Unfortunately for Jamarillo, the AJ found that removal was reasonable under the circumstances that included "Jaramillo’s lack of remorse and his poor potential for rehabilitation." (p. 4)

He fared no better with the appeals court. In reaching its decision not to disturb the removal action, the court points to the "remarkably consistent" testimony from several students and the bus driver. The witnesses described a "perturbed Mr. Jaramillo" getting on the bus, confronting the students, and telling them "he had ‘something’" for them in his truck, which turned out to be the gun that students who saw it thought was a rifle or shotgun. (p. 5)

Mr. Jaramillo got his day in court, but it was not a good one. He remains fired.

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.