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Soldier's trial draws attention of gun rights advocates

A soldier arrested for carrying an assault rifle told the police officer who arrested him that he had the weapon, "because he could," the officer said Wednesday during a trial that has the attention of national gun rights advocates.

Army Master Sgt. Christopher Grisham is charged with a misdemeanor count of interfering with the duties of an officer. Temple police officer Steve Ermis, whose confrontation with Grisham was captured on cellphone video and posted online, testified Wednesday that Grisham's behavior concerned him and that he wasn't entirely sure why Grisham had the AR-15 rifle.

Grisham was arrested while hiking with his 15-year-old son, who was working on the requirements for a Boy Scout badge. Closing arguments are expected Thursday.

Grisham, who's stationed at Fort Hood, was carrying an AR-15 rifle and a concealed handgun, for which he had a permit. Texas law allows for rifles to be carried in public.

Someone had called police expressing alarm over a man carrying a rifle along a road, according to the Temple Daily Telegram. Officer Steve Ermis responded and, according to court testimony, was initially concerned because he didn't know Grisham's intentions.

Grisham was carrying the rifle to protect against aggressive wild hogs, according to opening statements by Blue Rannefeld, an attorney for the National Association of Legal Gun Defense. He said Ermis "went above and beyond to control and intimidate" when he stopped the two, the Daily Telegram reported.

Court documents say Grisham tried to prevent Ermis from taking his rifle and later resisted as the officer attempted to place Grisham's hands behind his back. Prosecutor John Gantt Jr. told jurors that Grisham refused to follow Ermis' orders.

Grisham's son used his cellphone to record the confrontation.