Guns seized from 3 Volusia residents under new ‘red flag’ law
Mark Price was loading up the camper for a family trip away from his home in Edgewater when a neighbor stopped his pickup at the end of the driveway and cranked up the music.
Then the neighbor, identified in a police report as Ty Michael Buscoe, yelled at Price: “Hey Mark, come here so I can (expletive) kill you.”
That along with what happened next in the incident last month would make Buscoe the third-man in Volusia County served with a risk protection order, a new law allowing police to seize guns from people considered a danger to themselves or others. Flagler County has yet to issue one.
Price told a 9-1-1 dispatcher that he saw Buscoe point a gun at him out the pickup’s window. He said he heard Buscoe rack the handgun, putting a bullet in firing position. Price said Buscoe was drunk.
Nearly two minutes into the call, Price and his wife, Hanna, were headed inside their house to wait for police. That’s when Buscoe pulled the trigger.
“He just shot! He just shot!” Price said.
No one was hurt and Buscoe, 46, was arrested and his two guns taken. That was a relief to Price, who described himself in a phone interview as a supporter of the Second Amendment and said he and his wife both armed themselves as they waited with their children for police to arrive that night.
“I am kind of glad that they do have this law because of this situation here,” Price, 34, said. “If he is found mentally ill, he shouldn’t have a gun. On the other hand if he can prove he’s not mentally ill, so be it.”
Risk protection orders were part of a package of gun-control measures passed after the massacre on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland during which a former student is accused of using an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle to kill 17 people and wound another 17.
According to the new law, if police believe a person is a threat, they can ask a judge for a temporary order to take that person’s guns and ammunition. After the temporary order is issued a judge must hold a hearing within 14 days at which point the order can be extended for a year. If the person has a concealed carry permit then that must also be surrendered while the order is in effect.
Police can ask that the order be extended again for up to another year. A person can make a one-time request for the order to be lifted and the guns returned for each extension of the order. A violation of the order is a third-degree felony.
Broward County, the location of Parkland, has had by far the most requests for risk protection orders in the state with more than 30. The Broward Sheriff’s Office alone has filed 19 so far, the agency confirmed Friday.
National ‘red flag’ movement
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat whose district includes Parkland, joined U.S. Rep. Susan W. Brooks, a Republican from Indiana, and other legislators to introduce H.R. 5717, the Jake Laird Act., according to Brooks’ website. The act named after an Indiana police officer fatally shot by a mentally ill person in 2004 would provide grants to encourage states to pass similar “red flag” laws to one with the same name already in effect in Indiana.
U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida; Bill Nelson, D-Florida; and Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, also have introduced a similar bill encouraging states to give police the power to take guns from people who are a threat to themselves or others while providing them legal protection.
The measure introduced by Rubio and Nelson suggests states pass a law allowing the seizure of the guns after a hearing, according to information on Rubio’s website. The one by Deutch and Brooks allows police to take the guns based on probable cause and then have a court hearing within 21 days to determine if the person is dangerous.
Besides Indiana and now Florida, California, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont and Connecticut have such red flag laws.
Such laws help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, said Charles Rose, a law professor at Stetson University College of Law.
“The statute itself makes a lot of sense and it’s really balancing some competing interests regardless of whether you are a person who believes in strict gun control or no gun control,” Rose said in an interview. “I think we all agree that people with mental health issues who are a danger to themselves or others should not be in possession of firearms during the time when they are a danger.”
A federal red flag law based on the statutes already existing in Florida and a handful of other states would make a lot of sense by avoiding a “hodgepodge” of state laws that might allow someone’s whose guns have been seized to skirt the ban, Rose said.
“You wouldn’t have to worry about the gaps that can occur between local law enforcement, they take my guns in Florida so I run up to Georgia to try and buy some,” he said.
Gay Valimont, volunteer leader with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in an emailed statement that the new law is making a difference.
“Already, Florida’s red flag law has empowered law enforcement officials to disarm people around the state who exhibited warning signs for violence,” the statement said.
Florida Carry, though, a gun-rights group, and its general counsel, Eric Friday, have a different perspective.
“Our position is that they are completely unnecessary. Existing law was more than adequate to address people who have mental health problems,” Friday said in a phone interview. “The new law allows the government to take away people’s rights and private property without representation, because if they can’t afford an attorney, they don’t get one.”
He said that under Florida’s Baker Act someone can be declared mentally defective, which would preclude them from owning or buying guns.
Friday also said that a judge could decide to take someone’s guns away absent testimony from a psychological expert saying the person is mentally ill.
Daytona Beach criminal defense attorney Aaron Delgado said in a phone interview that there are benefits to risk protection orders but they could go too far. Delgado worried about how long law enforcement can hold a person’s weapons.
“You could end up with quite a collection of firearms, a very valuable collection,” Delgado said.
Delgado also worries about police invading people’s privacy if they decide to search a house for guns. And, he said, while looking for guns police might find something else that could get the person in hot water, like marijuana or some other drugs.
He asked what if police take out a risk protection order against a husband and seize his guns, do they also seize any guns his wife might have?
And Delgado, a Daytona Beach city commissioner, objects to the government knowing his business.
“I don’t like the idea of the government having a list of the firearms that I own,” he said.
The hearings for risk protection orders also pose a legal risk if someone charged with a crime decides to testify in an effort to keep his or her gun. A prosecutor could use anything they say at the risk hearing against them in the criminal case, Delgado said.
“The problem is a lot of times these are tied in with criminal cases which may prevent the defendant from being able to testify or assert all their constitutional rights,” Delgado said.
Rose, the Stetson law professor, said that Delgado’s concern that testimony at the hearing could be used in a criminal case can be solved by tweaking the law to prohibit prosecutors from doing that.
But that law hasn’t been adjusted so Delgado’s client, Buscoe, didn’t say much during a hearing on May 4 at the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand. Buscoe sat in an orange jail jumpsuit next to an attorney from Delgado’s firm.
When Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano asked Buscoe if he consented to the risk protection order, Buscoe nodded yes. The judge said there was no place in the form to check off that Buscoe had consented so he wrote it in.
Buscoe is being held without bail at the Volusia County Branch Jail. Prosecutors asked that Buscoe not be given bail after he said in recorded jail house phone calls that when he gets out “he is done” and “I am going to kill my neighbor.”
Zambrano approved a risk protection order barring Buscoe from purchasing or possessing guns or ammo for one year, until May 4, 2019. Zambrano told Edgewater Police Detective Stephen Binz that if police wanted to extend the order they would have to request that by that date.
Zambrano also ordered Buscoe to turn in his concealed weapons permit, which was also part of the red flag law.
Police seized Buscoe’s Glock 19. Buscoe also had an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle which was turned over to Delgado’s firm. Delgado said the gun will be sold and the proceeds used to defray Buscoe’s legal bills.
The Edgewater Police Department sought and received a second risk protection order against a Brandon Michael Tebo, 24, who was arrested on March 27 and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Tebo set his ex-girlfriend Tiffany Woodbury’s clothes on fire, according to a charging affidavit. He had also driven a car into the garage door.
Woodbury and some friends then drove to the house to check what was happening. Tebo then pulled a gun and fired two rounds into the ground, according to a charging affidavit.
Tebo also threatened to kill himself and had appeared intoxicated, according to a statement from his mother.
Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe III on April 10 granted an order allowing police to keep Tebo’s Kel-Tec 9 mm pistol for at least a year.
Tebo said in a phone interview this week that he should be able to get his gun back.
“What had happened was it was self-defense and I think they should never have taken away my gun from me,” Tebo said.
Tebo said he and his girlfriend had split up that day. He said he felt threatened by the early morning visit.
“Three people came to my house at 3 in the morning,” he said. “Do you think they came to bake cookies with me?”
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office sought and received a risk protection order against Andrew J. Russi, 23, of DeBary. Russi was charged with misdemeanor battery (domestic violence) and arrested on April 5 after he got into an argument with his girlfriend Leaha Judy and pushed her, according to an affidavit.
Then Russi, who had been drinking, went into his mother’s bedroom and got a revolver, a report said. Russi pointed the gun at his head and threatened to shoot himself.
His sister Erica, who had armed herself to protect herself from her brother, was able to take the revolver away from him. When deputies arrived they ordered Russi out, and he walked out with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Deputies ordered him to put down the rifle, which he did, and he was arrested and taken into custody for mental evaluation.
After that the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office filed a risk protection order to have the guns seized, the .22-caliber revolver and a Tikka T3, a .308-caliber rifle.
Circuit Judge Rowe approved the order on April 19, prohibiting Russi from buying or possessing firearms and ammo for a year.
Russi in a phone interview grudgingly agreed with the concept of risk protection orders.
“It makes sense. That’s why I didn’t really argue with them,” Russi said. “I didn’t really have an option to argue with them but in my eyes I guess it makes sense. If someone is in that position where they feel like they are going to take their own life or take someone else’s they probably shouldn’t have any weapons.
But he said he had just had a bad night and doctors cleared him afterward.
Russi, who has hunted deer and hog since he was a kid, said that he has been psychologically cleared by doctors, so he should get his guns back.
“I don’t think they should take them for a friggin’ year,” Russi said. “I’m going to miss all of next hunting season.”
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