Fla. police seize first firearms under state’s new gun-control laws
Four firearms and 267 rounds of ammunition were ordered removed from a 56-year-old man who experts determined was a potential risk to himself or others
By Paula McMahon
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Broward County judge on Friday issued what is thought to be Florida’s first order temporarily removing guns from a person under Florida’s new gun-control laws.
Four firearms and 267 rounds of ammunition were ordered removed from a 56-year-old Lighthouse Point man who experts determined was a potential risk to himself or others.
The guns and ammunition have been temporarily removed from the man under the state’s new “risk protection” law, which is also sometimes called “red flag” legislation, Lighthouse Point City Attorney Michael Cirullo confirmed.
Although the man was also taken to a hospital for involuntary psychiatric treatment under the state’s Baker Act, the civil ruling removing his access to guns and ammunition was granted under the new legislation, which permits removal of guns from people who have not been committed but are deemed a potential risk to themselves or others, according to the order signed by Broward’s Chief Judge Jack Tuter.
“We know it’s the first case of its kind in Broward County and we think it’s the first one in Florida, under the new law,” Cirullo said. “Up until the introduction of this law last week, there was no process for us to protect the public in this kind of situation.”
Before now, officials who attempted to remove guns from a person they thought was a danger could be removed from office and fined up to $5,000, he said.
Lighthouse Point police made the request on March 14, one week after they were called to his apartment building to conduct a welfare check on the man, who they said was behaving strangely. Authorities said it was the latest in a series of encounters law enforcement had with the man, though he has no history of arrests in Florida.
Police were called after the man turned off the main electrical breakers to the apartment building, court records show.
The man told officers he “was being targeted and burglarized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a neighbor who lives in (his) building,” the judge wrote in his order. “(He) could not describe the neighbor but stated that the neighbor ‘shape shift, he can change heights and I’m not sure where he comes from’ and ‘to be honest, he looks like Osama Bin Laden.’”
He also told officers that he had to turn off the electrical breakers because “they are electrocuting me through my legs.”
Officers said they saw weapons in his home after they were called to check on his welfare. They also found evidence he had “a voluminous amount of notes containing numerous references to former President Barack Obama, that he was killed in the 1980s but came back and now murders children to place their spirits into (the man’s) head, is a member of (al-Qaida), and is (the man’s) enemy,” the judge wrote in his order.
The man was involuntarily committed for treatment in a separate proceeding and it is not yet known when he would be eligible for release, records show.
The guns that were temporarily seized were a Ruger LCP .380 pistol, an M2 Mauser .45 pistol, a Charter Arms .357 mag snub nose revolver and a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun, according to the court order.
The man did not attend the initial hearing, which temporarily removes his access to guns, because he is hospitalized.
Under the requirements of the state law, Lighthouse Point police, Cirullo and the man whose guns were removed are due in court on March 28 for a final hearing to determine if the guns and ammunition should be removed for one year.
At that hearing, police would have to present “clear and convincing” evidence — more than was needed for the temporary removal of guns and ammunition — to keep the weapons in their custody for the next year.
If the judge grants that request, police could request an extension of the order if they are still concerned about the man having access to firearms.
(Staff Writer Larry Barszewski contributed to this report.)
©2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)