By Lee Williams
Last April Fools’ Day, a 61-year-old Miami man had a defensive gun usage in Florida City, Florida, which is certainly no surprise. Florida City was once considered the most dangerous city in the Sunshine State.
The man, who did not want his name used in this story, was at a fast-food restaurant when he was accosted by an individual who he now believes was emotionally disturbed. The man was filling his water bottle at a soda machine when someone behind him said, “I’m from prison. Don’t’ touch my food or I’ll kill you.” He quickly left the restaurant.
The disturbed man followed the victim outside, screaming about how he was going to kill him for touching his food.
“He was reaching in his pockets, being aggressive, saying how he was going to kill me, reaching into his pockets. He then ripped off his t-shirt and started running toward me very aggressively. I pulled my 9mm and told him to stop,” the victim said.
The victim kept walking backward, telling the suspect to stay back. At one point he tripped over some rocks, fell back onto his butt and had a negligent discharge. Fortunately, the round went into the ground striking no one. The victim got up and continued backing away from the man.
“He kept being aggressive, telling me to go ahead and shoot him. I kept walking away – about an eighth of a mile. He followed me the whole way, screaming and telling me to shoot him,” the victim said.
Florida City Police officers finally arrived. After two hours of questioning, they confiscated the victim’s Taurus G2c and two loaded magazines and then let him go. They took the disturbed man to a local mental health facility, where he was admitted for a 72-hour psychiatric hold, which is known in Florida as a Baker Act.
The incident occurred three months before Florida’s unlicensed concealed-carry law took effect, but the victim had a valid Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm license.
It took 68 days for FCPD’s investigation to conclude. The victim was not charged with any crime.
When he went to the police department to retrieve his property the ammunition was gone. The department’s property clerk, Krishen Boodoo, told him the ammunition was confiscated.
“We don’t return ammo,” Boodoo allegedly said. “The department will probably use it for training.”
This policy, one expert says, is patently illegal.
“To be clear, this is theft and it’s also a preemption violation,” said Jacksonville attorney Eric Friday, a firearms law and Second Amendment rights specialist and general counsel for Florida Carry, Inc.
Florida’s powerful preemption statute declares that only the state legislature can regulate firearms. Any public official who violates the law can be removed from office and face fines of up to $5,000, which they must pay personally,
Law enforcement unlawfully confiscating firearms, ammunition and personal property is an “awful issue statewide,” Friday said.
“I just filed suit against the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office over a similar issue last week,” he said.
Previously, Friday explained, Florida law allowed Sheriffs to sell confiscated arms and ammunition to Federal Firearm Licensees and then deposit the money into their budget. However, at some point the legislature realized this might have created an improper incentive for law enforcement. Now, when Sheriffs sell firearms or ammunition to a gun dealer, the money must be deposited into the state education fund.
“Every time a sheriff destroys a useful weapon instead of selling it to an FFL, they are taking money out of the education fund and from the children of Florida,” Friday said.
Florida Carry sent a letter to Florida City Police Chief Pedro Taylor, warning him of the possibility of litigation, the apparent preemption violation and that his department, “has a policy of not returning ammunition that has been taken from licensed, law-abiding citizens.”
In an email sent Tuesday, FCPD internal affairs Detective Julian Hoyte said, “the Florida City Police Department has reviewed and is immediately correcting this matter regarding confiscation of ammunition. All correction(s) are been made (sic) to ensure ammunition is returned to licensed, law-abiding citizens. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.”
Hoyte’s email chain contained another email, which Chief Taylor sent to his property clerk, Boodoo.
“Please see me,” the chief told his clerk.
Crime is out of control in Florida City. It has a violent crime rate of 2908.8 per 100,000 people, which is considerably higher than the national crime rate of 369.8 per 100,000 people.
Florida City’s 11,245 residents have a 1 in 34.4 chance of being a violent crime victim. Statewide, Floridians have a 1 in 260.7 chance of being a violent crime victim.
In an interview Wednesday, Chief Taylor wasn’t exactly sure how long his department’s ammunition confiscation policy had been in effect.
“I would say, I’m not even sure. It’s been a while. Maybe since 2012 to 2013,” the chief said. “I’m not sure. It’s something that was just brought to my attention. I would have to see.”
As to the allegations his officers were committing theft, Chief Taylor said, “I have to talk to my attorney. We’re not stealing ammo. We have a 90-day policy. Once they don’t claim it, it’s destroyed.”
This is bunk, the victim said. He tried to claim his ammunition well within the chief’s 90-day window.
“It was defensive ammo, which isn’t cheap,” he said. “I wanted it back and they wouldn’t give it to me.”