JACKSONVILLE, NC – A Jacksonville Marine veteran is no longer allowed to stand guard outside of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in the city.
Jacksonville Police said Matthew Benack was within his constitutional right to stand in front of the center on Western Boulevard with a loaded weapon and that he had the right to be out there since the center is on private property and if the owners gave permission.
Benack said he was there in response to last week’s attacks at a Chattanooga, Tennessee center. The shooting left five service members dead.
Police said Benack could stay on the property as long as neighboring businesses and the property manager allowed him to be there. Police told Benack on Monday they heard he had permission.
On Tuesday, police said the property owner rescinded permission for Benack to be there, and asked him to leave. Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners is the property manager and represents the property owner.
Benack told WNCT 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