Florida Carry sues Tampa Police over detention and trespass of open-carrying fisherman

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fisherman

Florida Carry Inc. and member George Freeman filed suit Friday against five Tampa police officers, one police sergeant, the Tampa Police Chief, the city’s mayor and the city itself over the June 13 detention, search and trespassing of Freeman, who was fishing at Tampa’s Ballast Point Pier.

The 41-page lawsuit points out that “Florida Carry exists for the purpose of representing the rights of Florida firearms owners, and their interests, especially in the existence of uniform firearms laws throughout the state.”

Therefore, the nonprofit “has statutory authority pursuant to Sec. 790.33, as an organization representing its members who are adversely affected to bring actions for violations of Sec. 790.33 by entities and individuals.”

“George Freeman, was detained for over an hour after a Tampa Police Officer unsuccessfully attempted sneak up behind him while fishing and grab his holstered handgun,” Florida Carry executive director Sean Caranna said in a previous statement. “George turned immediately when he felt an unknown person grab for his gun while reaching for a concealed backup gun. As soon as he saw the uniformed officer George stopped before he drew his backup and did not resist the seizure of his handguns.  He also presented his valid Florida Concealed Carry License to the officer. This extremely dangerous and uncalled-for move by the police officer to seize George’s legal handgun didn’t end once the officer found out that Mr. Freeman was not doing anything wrong.  After detaining our member for over an hour the police realized that they could not find any crime to charge him with.  So they issued him an order, a trespass notice that prevents him from going to the public pier at Ballast Point for one year.  George Freeman was NOT breaking any law but he was banned from the city pier for exercising his Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms.”

According to the court documents, “Defendant Officers also seized Freeman’s cell phone, wallet and keys, and conducted a search of the phone, including Freeman’s contacts list and GPS data, and activated the GPS setting that Freeman normally leaves disabled. As he was seizing Freeman’s property, Freeman attempted to inform Defendant Officers of Freeman’s right to openly carry a firearm while fishing as provided in Sec. 790.25, one of Defendant Officers’ response to Freeman was: “I don’t want to hear that shit.'”

The complaint also alleges that the officers “conducted an illegal search by running the serial numbers on Freeman’s firearms through a database.”

The lawsuit accuses all of the defendants, from the initial officers to the city’s mayor, of violating Section 790.

It claims the officers also violated Freeman’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and his liberty interest, as well as depriving him of his Second Amendment Right to bear arms.

These actions, the suit alleges, occurred “under color of law as Defendant Officers were officers of the TPD and were in uniform.”

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages, attorney’s fees and a court order prohibiting officers from running the serial numbers of lawfully owned firearms without reasonable and articuable suspicion of a crime.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

35 Comments

  1. I agree with the lawsuit wholeheartedly. this kind of stepping over the legal boundaries by law enforcement must be stopped. maybe they need to be sent to school to learn the laws that they are actually here too uphold. when something like this happens an officer should have to be schooled on the subject and then tested to make sure that they know the law and fined for making such mistakes.

  2. Common Sense Tyranny on

    That’s all well and good that he was not breaking any laws but the fact remains he was a potential dangerous threat to all those on the pier that day and the well intentioned officer was acting in the interest of stopping a potential mass shooting in a public place.

    At least I hope that’s their defense because otherwise it’s just the police abusing their power to detain and investigate and I don’t think that argument would help them much.

    • Approaching from the rear without notification and attempting to take the firearm without notice is what is causing the potential dangerous threat!

    • The lawful exercise of a protected fundamental right does not in itself generate “reasonable suspicion”.

      That is a well-established precedent of law.

    • Absurd. Anyone and everyone is a potential deadly threat/ You cant violate the law and peoples rights on the basis that someone “might” do something. Its the police’s responsibility to know the law. That’s not going to fly given if the officer thought he was stopping a mass shotting, why bother walking up behind and taking the gun, If I were stopping a mass shooter, Id have shot him in the back ..not tried to sneak up and take the gun. The people were in far more danger from the officers than this man, and the officer was danger to himself and this man trying take gun from a unsuspecting man opening carrying. Pure idiocy.

    • Common Sense Tyranny: Common sense: Not. This fisherman was not the potential threat the stupid acting policeman is. That this cop would do what he did is the scary part here. A police chief said his officers carry guns to intimidate people. With that attitude, should I feel secure in my person. Fortunately, I think, most cops don’t have that attitude. So here we have the problem with open carry which I support but must ask: is it the wisest thing to do? I must say no it is not because some people panic when they see a gun and the action of this cop proves that point. There is your potential threat– a cop who panics. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to conceal carry at all times without getting permission from somepne who thinks we should not have this freedom. All gun control is illegal according to the constitution I read. Carry on. Cheers!

  3. Seems to me that cops all over this country has lost their money minds.They are power hungry.I hope and pray that they don’t hurt me or my family.If they do I will go to prison because I will do everything in my power to hurt the one that does.

  4. Rickie Osbourn on

    I don’t think a guy fishing on a pier is going to catch a fish then head out for a mass shooting. We already jump through loops to legally carry in Florida. Hope he gets an apology and his right to go fishing on the pier without being harassed. In case someone forgot there have been several kids shooting each other unsolved in sulphur springs lately how about worry about true criminals.

  5. I don’t think a Mr.freeman fishing on a pier is planningto to head out for a mass shooting, or maybe he was thinking that if and nut case starts shooting in the park or the fishing pier he would be able to stop them before the mass shooting. It sound that Mr.Freeman and Florida open carry has ball and spirit to stop mass shooting.And Yes We already jump through loops to legally carry in Florida. Hope he gets an apology and his right to go fishing on the pier without being harassed, Would be happy to OC fishing with Mr.Freeman. In case someone forgot this is USA and there people that are out there that look for areas that are “GUN FREE” ITS open season for them. Now if there people OC nut cases wont do their shit, they be scared. Cops should worry about true criminals. And ISIS. GOD bless

  6. Sneak up behind someone and try to take their sidearm? What were they thinking?
    The guy was fishing! How anyone could even think he was “a potential threat” to a “mass shooting” is beyond me. Pretty much anybody texting down the interstate is a bigger threat than this fisherman was.

    So how many “criminals” has this officer attempted to sneak up on and try to disarm without at least having some kind of backup??? Is this what passes for law enforcement these days?

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  8. Maybe someone should tell the writer of this article that it’s “reasonable suspicion” and “articulable facts”, not an eclectic legal term.

    • Other than nitpicking, do you have a point?

      Because this lawsuit will proceed on the merits, and the plaintiffs will win.

    • Or ya know, the officer could have followed the laws he’s sworn to uphold. We’re told all the time that ignorance of the law is no excuse, so how the hell do the cops get a free pass?

  9. AS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS IN FLORIDA AND NATIONWIDE THE TRAINING OFFICER OF THE DEPARTMENT SHOULD MAINLY KEEP UP THE FEDERAL AND STATE LAWS SO THEY CAN KEEP THE OFFICERS INFORMED OF THE LAWS AND ANY CHANGES OF THE LAW SO THEY DON’T HARASS LAW ABIDING CITIZENS AS ALSO WITH ALL THE NEGATIVE ATTENTION LAW ENFORCEMENT IS GETTING FOR THE FEW WHO BREAK THE LAW THANK YOU

  10. What I see is a gross lact of common sense. How is it that this person is paid to carry a gun and badge. How can a person be paid to enforce the law when he does not know what the law says. For his supervision/management. What were they thinking or do they not know what the law says either? For the trespass, Doing their best to save face with the public, they did not want the gun carrier showing back on the pier with his gun. This condition is rampent in law enforcement, from basic traffic law to criminal law. Sorry, sorry state of afairs.

  11. Tyson Richmond on

    I’m surprised, disappointed, and a little embarrassed that this happened in Tampa. I’d like for the TPD to publicly state that this type of harassment is not permitted and that the officer has been fired. Perhaps training would be sufficient if ignorance of the law were the only issue, but “I don’t want to hear that shit.” suggests that he didn’t care about the law. In addition, his attempt to grab the firearm was reckless and potentially put others on the pier at risk. As a resident of the Ballast Point area I’d prefer that this guy was working somewhere else.

  12. Bob Blanding on

    I have been telling all that will listen, more dangerous to us law abiding citizens, more than POS thugs ,criminals and ill intent morons are these, so called law enforcement ,bully cops who do not know the freakin’ laws in not only our state of Florida,but, as we plainly can see in our entire country. They have gone much to far and you see that when telling them the law , they “Don’t want to hear that shit” They just do not yet get it and the only way to put our Constitutional rights before their [above the law intimidation factor] will be to hit these morons in the wallet and thru the court system………………….

  13. not in rhode island any more (thankfully) on

    i am glad we have police that will get up every morning and put their lives on the line for us. just as i am glad we have our military to protect our country. nuts on either side of this we don’t need. get rid of the nuts–praise those who are left. your life and liberty depend on them.

  14. Pingback: FL Carry Sues Tampa for Violations of Constitutional Rights

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  16. In my opinion the law enforcement officer was the only one causing the dangerous environment in the situation these kind of law enforcement officers are not needed we need understanding respectful law enforcement officers that will help people and actually care about the community I see more and more that just don’t care anymore and or instigate just to get them arrested I have lived in the same town Naples Florida my whole life the lot of them here are causing more problems than doing good. Way to stand ur ground Mr Freeman!

  17. Pingback: Florida Carry filing lawsuit over police harassment

  18. If I were the jury I would definitely rule in favor of the plaintiff by the preponderance of evidence if the case is how it is printed here.

    Now if I were the law enforcement officer:

    I would have already contacted backup. I would have my hand on my firearm, but not pointed, ready to pull if needed. I would then call to the “person of interest” from a safe distance (aka outside the personal space). I would have asked him about his firearm, if he were licensed for its carry, and then when backup arrived proceeded with the onsite investigation. Disarm him with his consent, telling him if all checks out he will get his firearms back. Check the paperwork, make sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed. As soon as he is found to be clear, apologize for the inconvenience and return his firearms and probably chat with him. No need to go through his phone, his GPS history, etc. Why? There was no probable cause. Without probable cause or a warrant, it is illegal to do that search/seizure.

    I do support my local police, both where I work and at my home. Though I do get upset at those officers who DO NOT use their brain. I have gotten on their cases when they are directing traffic without a vest. I don’t want them hurt and replaced with these bozos.

    • Except for the fact that you do not need any permit or license to open carry a firearm while fishing. He does however need a permit for the concealed backup gun, but the police officer did not know that existed at the time.

    • You have missed the point, there was nothing professional or legal about the police conduct. The officer was trying to cause an incident by illegally seizing this mans property. The officer should be in jail.

  19. I said it once i will say it again these power hungry cops don’t give a shit about our rights or the LAW they simply want to be the only ones with guns , and they would do the job for free. Power trip….

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