Philly Police Harass, Threaten To Shoot Man Legally Carrying Gun; Then Charge Him With Disorderly Conduct For Recording Them

from the lovely dept

As police are insisting that having the public record them is a dangerous situation that shouldn't be allowed, we get a striking example of just how important that right is at times. Julian Sanchez points us to a story of a guy in Philadelphia, who had a license to carry a firearm in a city where it's legal to openly carry a firearm -- but who ran into a police officer who apparently did not understand his city's own laws:
On a mild February afternoon, Fiorino, 25, decided to walk to an AutoZone on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philly with the .40-caliber Glock he legally owns holstered in plain view on his left hip. His stroll ended when someone called out from behind: "Yo, Junior, what are you doing?"

Fiorino wheeled and saw Sgt. Michael Dougherty aiming a handgun at him.

What happened next would be hard to believe, except that Fiorino audio-recorded all of it: a tense, profanity-laced, 40-minute encounter with cops who told him that what he was doing - openly carrying a gun on the city's streets - was against the law.

"Do you know you can't openly carry here in Philadelphia?" Dougherty asked, according to the YouTube clip.

"Yes, you can, if you have a license to carry firearms," Fiorino said. "It's Directive 137. It's your own internal directive."
You can hear all of this via the YouTube clip, embedded here:
It gets worse and worse. Dougherty threatens to shoot Fiorino for trying to show him his license:
Fiorino offered to show Dougherty his driver's and firearms licenses. The cop told him to get on his knees.

"Excuse me?" Fiorino said.

"Get down on your knees. Just obey what I'm saying," Dougherty said.

"Sir," Fiorino replied, "I'm more than happy to stand here -"

"If you make a move, I'm going to f------ shoot you," Dougherty snapped. "I'm telling you right now, you make a move, and you're going down!"

"Is this necessary?" Fiorino said.
Other cops show up and they continue to curse at him and scream at him, while he calmly responds to their claims. They discover that he has a recording device in his pocket, and they go even more ballistic, telling him he broke the law with that as well. Eventually, they finally realize that he wasn't breaking the law with the gun and let him go... But once he posted the audio on YouTube, suddenly the District Attorney took renewed interest in the case, and charged him with "reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct," claiming that he refused to cooperate with police. If you listen to the tapes, it's hard to see how anyone could make that claim with a straight face. It seems pretty clear, from the beginning, that it's the police who were recklessly endangering someone and who were disorderly in how they dealt with Fiorino.

No matter what your opinion is on guns or open carry rules, it's hard to see how this guy deserves the treatment he received from police who clearly did not understand the law in their own city -- and it's even more ridiculous to see him facing a (trumped up) charge, after he uploaded the audio. It seems like a pretty clear case of vindictive prosecution, even as part of the issue is that the very thing that pissed off law enforcement is precisely what proves this guy was perfectly reasonable throughout the encounter.

Filed Under: disorderly conduct, guns, harassment, open carry, philadelphia, police, recording


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  1. icon
    Jon G. (profile), 22 May 2011 @ 7:06pm

    Re:

    @95 you are so many levels of wrong, its not even funny. Were you listening to the same recording I was? Every step of the way, Fiorino was calmly asserting his rights. Fiorino only resisted in the slightest when the officer made unreasonable demands, and every step of the way was trying to defuse the situation. He attempted to educate the officer because the officer was clearly ignorant about the situation. He attempted to produce documentation showing his legal right to carry a firearm. Considering that Fiorino allegedly had a weapon pointed at him, I think he handled the situation rather well.

    I'm sorry, but calmly asserting your rights and refusing to abide by unreasonable orders made by a clearly overzealous and ignorant officer is not a free license for the officer to overreact, draw his weapon without cause. It simply isn't.

    We cannot defend police officers who are so clearly in the wrong. We cannot make excuses for them. We must hold them to the same standards that citizens are held to, and when they react inappropriately, they must be penalized.

    In contrast, if the officer would have responded just as calmly said "sir, I understand that you are telling me you have a permit. For my own safety, I would like to disarm you. Place your hands on your head and walk backwards towards me." this whole situation would have played out differently. Hell, if the cop wanted to handcuff Fiorino at that point, it would have been acceptable IMO. I totally understand that police need to protect themselves, and when faced with an uncertain scenario, I'm okay with them taking precautions.

    It's called situational awareness. Many officers are capable of making rational decisions regarding the situation they are faced with. Those who can't need to be retrained, penalized, or fired - in that order.

    I'm sorry, but I don't trust people like Sgt. Dougherty or ANY of the backup officers to protect citizens. Cops like that do more harm than good.

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