Florida’s new ‘red flag’ law leads to forced confiscation of weapons
In the four weeks since Florida passed a “red flag” law authorizing police to seize weapons from people who could pose a threat to themselves or others, law enforcement officials in Broward County have taken action against 13 people.
All have complied with police — except one.
Deputies arrived at the home of Jerron Smith, 31, last week armed with a court order demanding he turn over any weapons under his control — and he said no, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Now Smith has become the first person in Broward, and possibly in the state, to be charged with refusing to surrender his weapons under the new law, the sheriff’s office announced Monday.
Violating a risk protection order is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison.
The law was passed March 9, nearly a month after Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland with an AR-15 rifle.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reviewed six of the risk protection order cases in Broward where information was immediately available.
Mental health concerns were a key factor in three of them while violence, including stalking, were prominent in the other three.
The highest profile order was filed last month against Nikolas Cruz’ brother, Zachary Cruz.
Arrested for trespassing at Stoneman Douglas last month, Zachary Cruz was committed for mental health observation under the state’s Baker Act. No guns were found in the Lantana home where he’s been staying since his mother passed away last November.
In Lighthouse Point, police obtained an order against a man who accused his neighbor of being a shape-shifter who took on the appearance of Osama bin Laden.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office took an order out against a Weston man who told his mother he had financial problems that could be resolved if a family member with a life insurance policy were to die. The mother told police she believes her son is suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, according to a sheriff’s office report.
Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter also signed orders against a Weston man accused of stalking his ex-girlfriend’s daughter and a Pembroke Park woman who drove her car into a BSO station in an alleged attempt to set it on fire, according to court records.
Two of the 13 orders signed by Tuter are directed at juveniles and have not been released to the public.
In the Deerfield Beach case, Smith was already barred from possessing a weapon, but the risk protection order made it much easier for law enforcement to prove he had one.
Before the law was passed, law enforcement lacked the authority to search his home for weapons. The law gave deputies the power to order him to turn over his weapons, and his refusal gave deputies the justification they needed to obtain a search warrant.
Smith was arrested in late March, accused of shooting at a car driven by a friend with whom he was having an argument over a borrowed cell phone. The friend was shaken but unhurt, according to court documents.
Smith was ultimately charged with attempted murder and was released on a $3,000 bond. As a condition of his release, Smith was not permitted to have a gun. But even with that condition, police would not have been able to search his home for weapons without probable cause.
“Smith was supposed to turn in firearms or ammunition while on bond,” said sheriff’s office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright. “He did not.”
Inside his home, deputies found “an AR-15, a .22 caliber rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a bump stock and numerous other weapon-related items,” according to a sheriff’s office news release.
Bump stocks are attachments that modify semi-automatic weapons, such as the AR-15, so they can shoot more rapidly.
Now Smith is in jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond on the risk protection order case. A judge would have to decide whether he is entitled to any bond at all on the attempted murder case because he allegedly violated the conditions of his release.
Had he remained free, the risk protection order would have blocked Smith from being able to purchase a new weapon, said Coleman-Wright. A pre-trial restriction barring gun possession might not have turned up on a background check for a gun buyer — risk protection orders do.
Smith’s case was assigned to the Broward Public Defender’s Office, but a specific lawyer has not yet been appointed.
rolmeda@SunSentinel.com, 954-356-4457, Twitter @SSCourts and @rolmeda
(c)2018 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.