Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Philadelphia Police Unmercifully Persecute Gun Owner For Just Obeying The Law

Philadelphia anti gun rights Mayor Michael Nutter had better get the city’s checkbook ready as the result of the 18 month persecution of an innocent “Open Carry” gun owner. The ACLU and a local law firm have just filed a lawsuit against the City to protect a gun owner’s rights. The State of Pennsylvania issues concealed carry permits. Since it’s an open carry state, a person openly carrying a handgun in Philadelphia only needs a state issued carry permit.

Mark Fiorino was confronted and held by police unlawfully three times over a year and a half period, and was once threatened by Police to be summarily shot on the spot because he carried his handgun openly, and had the gall to complain about his treatment to the Police during an illegal stop. He was also acquitted of bogus criminal charges filed by the Police, as they maliciously prosecuted him in retribution after they “completed” their investigation.

He has that required Pennsylvania permit, and prefers to carry his handgun in an outside holster because it is more comfortable, gives easier access, and he believes it is a deterrent to crime. He was held by Philadelphia Police on July 31st, 2010 by Policemen because he was openly carrying. His gun was taken. He was patted down, was told that it was illegal to openly carry in Philadelphia, and was detained. It was the official erroneous Police Department policy that openly carrying firearms was illegal there, even with a concealed handgun permit. But, the D.A.s office previously informed police that open carry was legal with a permit. He offered to show the officer the permit, but was ignored. The officer who pointed the gun at him later denied that Fiorino offered to show his permit, but Firino's offer to show his permit is clear on a recording that he made of the incident. The officer lied. His personal effects and handgun was returned after 15 minute in custody. He filed a complaint and received a letter back in August, 2010 from Internal Affairs denying that his civil rights had been violated.
The official Police policy authorized officers to illegally seize any firearm carried openly even with a state carry permit and even if no crime has been committed if there are “reasonable grounds involving public safety requiring confiscation of the firearm.” No such grounds were given to Fiorino. 

On August 13th, Fiorino was openly carrying his sidearm in a holster when he entered a Philadelphia restaurant with a companion. He believed that the first Police stop was the end of his problems with them, but, two policemen followed him into the restaurant, grabbed him by the arm, and forcibly took him outside. Like the first officers, they told him that he was carrying openly illegally, and that the gun had to be concealed. He provided proof of his carry license as fourteen other police arrived there.

Fiorino told them that they were violating his Fourth Amendment Rights. One officer just replied by telling Fiorino that he just got “training” on the subject. He told him if he continued to argue about his rights that his firearm would be taken and he would go to jail. One of the officers present told Fiorino that it was illegal to openly carry a firearm there “because there was no law permitting it.” He was released about 15 minutes later without his gun, ammunition and holster. Fiorino followed proper procedure to recover his property, but it continued to be held by police, where a Lieutenant told the press that anyone who had a firearm seized would, “Have to fight for it.”  They also destroyed his ammunition that was wrongfully seized. Their policy was to destroy all ammunition seized, whether it was rightfully seized or not.

And then again on February 13th, 2011, he was openly carrying again when he was confronted by police who said, “Yo, junior, what are you doing?” as the officer pointed his gun at Fiorino’s chest.

When he offered to show the officer his carry permit, it was refused, and the officer ordered him to get down to his knees and said, “Or, I’m gonna f…ing shoot ya.” A second policeman gave conflicting orders to Fiorino and told him, “Keep your hands down, if you make a move, I’m gonna  f…ing shoot ya.” So, those were his choices.
If he didn’t move he would be shot; however, if he moved he would be shot. He was afraid. What was he supposed to do?

The Policemen also called him , “A piece of s..t.” He was then ordered to, “Get on the f…ing ground, lay the f…k down, put your f…ing hands behind your f…ing back, and shut your f…ing mouth.” He was then thrown to the ground and pressed into the cement as he was handcuffed with knees in his back. He was held another 40 minutes in a paddy wagon while police made phone calls to determine if open carry was really “Illegal.”
The Police higher ups later admitted that the language used by the officers was “inappropriate.” You think?

The Philadelphia Police Department had made changes to their “Policy” and say they informed personnel, but they never actually notified officers of those changes regarding open carry in the city .The Department’s notice of legality of open carry was expected to “trickle down” to the street cops. One anonymous officer told the Philadelphia Weekly in May, 2011 that he was unaware that open carry with a carry permit was legal in his city. Astonishingly, a police captain told the same newspaper in the same article that PPD officers are often ignorant about the fact that it is legal to openly carry there with a carry permit. And, even more astonishingly, a Lieutenant also admitted that she was unaware about legal open carry there until it was brought to her attention after these events.

After completing their Internal Affairs investigation, the police convinced a willing D.A. to file what his attorneys called “frivolous charges” against Fiorino in what his attorneys also called “retaliation” for his posting the recording that he made on You tube and embarrassing them. These were misdemeanor charges of “Recklessly endangering another person.” That’s defined under Pennsylvania law as “recklessly engaging in conduct which places or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.” Who was this person or person that the Police were referring to? This could have landed Fiorino in prison for one to two years.

He turned himself in, was arrested, held 16 hours, and released after being arraigned. He was rearrested on the same charges shortly after being released from jail while attending a mandatory bail conditions orientation meeting and handcuffed in front of 25 people. The Police released him after an hour saying that, “They had changed their minds.” What actually happened was that the Police had forgotten to withdraw the arrest warrant from their active warrant list in the Police computer records after the arrest, as they were required by law to do. So, police records still showed that Fiorino was “actively wanted” if his name was pulled up for some reason for a check on their computers. 

When Fiorino’s attorney called a detective to find out why Fiorino had been rearrested, the detective threatened to arrest him too. Fox News later reported that the Police Department said that citizens “will be inconvenienced” if they carry unconcealed handguns in the city and that they may be “Required to lay on the ground until officers feel safe while they check permits.”

Fiorino went to trial and was acquitted by the Judge on October 27, 2011. Fiorino is suing the Officers and the city for significant damages because of the unlawful detentions and malicious prosecution. It will probably be shown after this lawsuit against the police ends that Fiorino was not the reckless one. We thank the ACLU for their involvement, but the ACLU most likely got involved because civil right lawsuits won under the applicable Federal Civil Rights laws award generous attorney fees.

The police have once again promised to “Re-educate all Philadelphia Police Officers about the legality of open carry in the city with a concealed carry permit. 

This post is not meant to advocate or discourage the use of open carry. It is about police abuse. Open carry is a sometimes controversial form of carry with pros and cons among firearms owners. To openly carry or not  is an individual decision one must make after all factors have been considered. 

Here's the recording of the second arrest that made the Philadelphia Police so angry.

The UN To Use Appropriate and Gradual Force In Gun Confiscation

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