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May 03, 2018

Abington police chief knocks down rumor about the man with the AR-15 assault rifle

Police Public Safety
05032018_Abington_AR15 ./.

A man carries an AR-15 assault rifle across his back as he walks on a street in Abington Township. He was not breaking the law, police said.

Abington police Chief Patrick Molloy on Thursday knocked down reports that his officers had arrested the man photographed recently as he walked township streets with an AR-15 assault rifle slung over his shoulder.

Molloy said he had learned that some residents are "reporting false information" about the department's investigation of the young man, specifically that he had been arrested and released on Thursday.

OPINION: That guy walking around with the AR-15 deserves to be heard

"This fact is simply not true," the chief wrote in a Facebook post. "We continue to investigate this matter and collect as much information as we can. There is absolutely no threat to the community at this time and as I have stated before I will not comprise the safety of our residents."

Molloy told residents that if there is further information regarding the situation, he will release it at that time.

Molloy did not respond to PhillyVoice's request on Thursday afternoon for more information about the status of the police investigation.

But at least two commenters responding to the Molloy's Facebook post on Thursday claimed the chief was misleading the public. One commenter reported seeing Abington officers keeping the man under surveillance overnight Thursday and taking him into custody in Thursday morning, though that post was subsequently deleted.

It was not clear if that information was the alleged rumor the chief was trying to discredit.

Police received multiple reports on Monday of the man walking around with assault rifle visibly across his back. He was photographed on North Tyson Avenue, but was spotted in North Hills, Ardsley, Glenside and the Abington Shopping Center, police reported Monday.

A number of residents were alarmed by the news.

The man is known to police as a gun-rights supporter, according to a letter sent to township residents by Molloy.

"While this individual’s intentions are unknown, it appears that he is attempting to draw our police officers into a debate or an encounter over his 2nd amendment right to carry this weapon in public," the chief said in Monday night's letter. "All of our officers are well aware of this passive-aggressive tactic, as they have been videotaped during at least one encounter with him."

Molloy urged the public to resist taking any action against, or even speaking to, the man. Residents who feel their safety is threatened by the man should call 911 and an officer will be dispatched immediately, he said.