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. identicon
    Juan, 31 Jul 2011 @ 3:19pm

    Use Your Talents To Save Our Economy

    Mark Fiorino,

    Thank you for risking your life to expose egregious ignorance among our public servants. This was a clear case of institutional ineptitude. The police officer pointing a gun at you for legally walking down a sidewalk is a public disgrace, as were the follow up charges against you by his superiors.

    With that street gutter attitude, no doubt the semi-educated police officer’s mother let his stepfathers beat him as a child. He should have started a conversation by calling you “Sir” instead of “Junior”. Worse, even if his parents were pathetic in shaping his demeanor toward fellow humans his employers should have nipped that behavior in the bud a long time ago.

    Any public servant nowadays that behaves inappropriately should have no reason to expect privacy while performing their public duty. If the government is going to film us with speeding and stop light cameras and dashboard cameras why would it not expect quid pro quo –of the people, by the people, for the people? Aren’t we all in this together? The old adage, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is now “What happens in Vegas goes on the Internet”.

    Despite his upbringing, if the police officer is any kind of man with a social conscience, he should have called you or written you by now personally apologizing for putting your life in jeopardy, using foul language, and not knowing the limits and responsibilities of his job. A true professional will acknowledge their shortcomings and work like heck to remedy them –part of the 12-step process.

    Did you set them up? Oh yeah. Did that particular officer need to be the scapegoat for public scrutiny in the police department’s failure to understand the laws they are entrusted to enforce? No. You too need to be a man and apologize to him for using him as a tool for getting your point across. He became a police officer so he could legally carry a gun just like you. Nevertheless, I’m afraid you both have more in common than I’d want in my neighborhood.

    I always tell my kids, “Never argue with an idiot. The casual observer can’t tell which one is which.” Without argument everyone here seems to agree: open carry is idiotic –it invites nothing but trouble from both sides of the law.

    You’re fortunate you hadn’t committed Suicide by Cop, which any police organization would rally around as the reason for your death. They have an interest in protecting their employees like family –nepotism being alive an well in most organizations. I grew up during the Rizzo era reading about their antics in The Philadelphia Bulletin. It’s entertaining to see things haven’t changed much –and I don’t live there anymore.

    Now that you’ve won your argument with the man, count your blessings and use your talents for something more important, like reducing the federal debt so we’re not owned by the Chinese. Come spend time at Goldman Sachs and the Department of Treasury, otherwise we’re going to see a spike in DWA (Driving While Asian) traffic tickets as our little yellow friends visit their new properties: Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, White House, Capitol Building …

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