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When Guns and Mental Health Intersect: Cops Seize Arsenals on Two Occasions in 5 Days

| May 20, 2014

A .38-caliber Rossi model revolver similar to the one seized from a 70-year-old woman, for safekeeping, by Flagler County Sheriff's deputies last Friday, as the woman was hallucinating.

A .38-caliber Rossi model revolver similar to the one seized from a 70-year-old woman, for safekeeping, by Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies last Friday, as the woman was hallucinating.

For the second time in five days Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies have seized, with consent, two unrelated individuals’ weapons for safekeeping after incidents involving excessive grief or hallucinations, and fear among cops or relatives of the individuals involved that they could harm themselves if their weapons were left in their possession.

Such preventive seizures are not uncommon, and are at times conducted at police officers’ discretion, based on their judgment of the situation. But the seizures have at times drawn unusual attention in the last couple of years as an organization called Florida Carry Inc., which describes itself as a Second Amendment advocacy organization, has sued police agencies around the state for pre-emptively seizing firearms.

In Daytona Beach, the police department around Christmas 2012 seized 16 firearms from then 27-year-old Anthony Bontempo after responding to his home for a so-called welfare, or well-being, check, as Bontempo had indicated that he might harm himself. Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood, however, sought to require Bontempo to get a court order to get his weapons back. Bontenpo refused, and sued instead through Florida Carry. Eight months later, a Volusia County Circuit judge ordered Chitwood to release the weapons.

No such court orders are part of the seizure protocol in Flagler County, where the sheriff’s office allows weapons owners to recover their guns once they feel better.

The first incident took place the evening of May 11. Charlie Borill Jr., 56, of Cloverdale Court in Palm Coast, was grieving painfully over the recent death of his wife and, as he told deputies, after he was asked to exit his residence and was patted down, that he was having a difficult time coping with the loss. His sister told deputies that she was very concerned about Borill’s safety because he had a lot of weapons in his house. But Borill had made no statements that would lead deputies to believe that he had any intention of harming himself—either to deputies or to his sister.

Borill said he had plenty of family to live for, and that only “idiots’ would kill themselves, according to a sheriff’s report.

Borrill said he would seek counseling, but did not want to be forced into it, nor to be removed from his home. Other family members were on the way from out of state to help him through his difficulties. (Borrill was likely referring to the Baker Act, which gives police authority to remove an individual from his or her home, against the individual’s will, and incarcerate the individual in a psychiatric unit at Halifax hospital for up to 72 hours for evaluation. Baker Acts have become almost a daily occurrence on deputies’ beats locally and across the state.)

“Sergeant Williams,” according to a sheriff’s report on the incident, “advised Charlie that he was concerned with the amount of guns in his home while he was going through a really hard time dealing with a death. Charlie agreed to voluntarily surrender his weapons to be placed into evidence for safekeeping. Charlie understood that this effort was voluntary and that he could retrieve his weapons at a later date when he felt he was more stable emotionally.”

All of Borrill’s weapons were located and identified in various locations inside the house. They totaled six pistols, four rifles and two shot guns. The weapons were transported to the Palm Coast Precinct where they were packaged for safekeeping.

The second incident took place late the night of Friday (May 16) Oak Ridge Road, in the Flagler County portion of Ormond Beach, following a welfare check on 70-year-old Peggy Harwood.

Harwood told police that she was lying in bed watching television when she saw a blond stranger enter her bedroom through her closed bedroom door. She screamed, went to her closet to arm herself with a .38-caliber revolver, and said the stranger didn’t move when she screamed at him. She left her room by jumping out of a bedroom window. She was standing in front of her property when cops arrived, the gun in her purse next to her on the ground.

Deputies checked the house but found no one inside. The bedroom door Harwood had mentioned was still closed. There were no signs of forced entry or damage to any areas of the residence.

“While speaking with Peggy she stated these hallucinations started in the past several weeks after a new prescription she started taking,” the incident report states. She explained that with different types of medications she was taking, the combination may have triggered the hallucinations. Harwood’s primary doctor could not be contacted just then, as his answering service told deputies that he would not be back until Monday.

“Due to Peggy’s hallocinations I took possession of two firearms she had inside her residence for safekeeping,” the deputy’s incident report states. “The weapons are a loaded five shot Rossi Model .38 revolver S/N W090225 and a loaded six shot Armi-Gale-Brescia-Brevetto .25 silver pistol. Peggy had no objections of me taking her firearms and signed an property sheet documenting the items being turned over to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.”

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10 Responses for “When Guns and Mental Health Intersect: Cops Seize Arsenals on Two Occasions in 5 Days”

  1. Geezer says:

    Rossi revolvers sure are cheap lookin’. The one in the picture wants to be a
    Smith and Wesson 586 and Colt Python at the same time.

    “I don’t think so” says Homey the Clown.

  2. Heston says:

    This is how it starts…Confiscation of your firearms. They will use ANY excuse to take them from the public. Don’t give them a REASON. Keep your business to yourself, including nosey relatives.
    Be smart, Be Safe, Be ARMED !!!!!

  3. Mary says:

    Did they take away the firearm from that Flagler Cop who’s wife ” supposively ” shot herself in the head ?
    No, they NEVER take firearms away from ANGRY cops…Why is that ?

  4. Fixin up says:

    Commendable actions on the Deputy’s part. It is better to be safe than sorry. Yes we have a 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Our law enforcement have the duty to serve and protect. In that, they covered all three areas, Thank You.

  5. The Truth says:

    The mental health state of our country is very alarming. We can blame everything we want but the facts are that we have a lot of people who need help. There is no one entity that can fix this. While we rely on many things like better health care, we have to start with looking at ourselves as humans. We have to be willing to help our neighbor, our friend, our family member or anyone we see in need. We cannot be afraid of being involved, being afraid will only make this get worse. If you see someone you feel is in need of help, please talk to them and see what can be done.

  6. A.S.F. says:

    I worked on a behavioral health unit in a hospital for many years. Suicidal people (and the relatives and friends that report them) should always be taken seriously and their weapons should ALWAYS be confiscated and/or removed from their active reach. I have evaluated too many individuals whose insurance companies refused to let us admit because they were not actively suicidal once we got them into the ER. But what a person might do under controlled circumstances, in front of authority figures or medical personnel who they know might have the power to involuntarily commit them, could change rapidly once that person is back on their own or in a less controlled environment. Worse still, if they have access to drugs and/or alcohol, their ability to reason and control their actions could rapidly deteriorate. I applaud the police who try their best to protect us but, many times, their hands are tied. That their hands could be tied by so-called “second amendment advocates” and their many lobbyists is truly a tragedy. These are the wise folk, I assume, who like to go round saying that it is the person with the gun, not the gun, that is the problem. Then, they tie the hands of authorities who would try to keep weapons out of the reach of troubled individuals who might turn them on themselves or others in a crisis? Those are not true blue Americans standing up for their inalienable rights. Those are selfish people more in love with guns than they are concerned with their fellow human beings. Thank you, Flagler County Sheriff’s Deputies, for trying to do what’s right in these situations. I hope you will get all the training and support you need from the medical and mental health community to help you deal appropriately with the serious challenges you face.

    • anoun says:

      A.S.F I do not agree with you most of the time.I am a gun owner and strongly support the 2nd amendment.But do believe when some one has a mental issue their firearms should be token from them.The only problem I have is some of the law enforcement will use this for taking a law abiding citizen’s firearms. As I do not trust our present Sheriff.He has made statements which I do not agree with.

  7. RHWeir says:

    Guns, contemporary society, depression….not a good thing. Maybe all we need is one gun each if any? Maybe just a single shot weapon? Pipe dream I suppose. It’s just so easy to shoot a gun and then, you cannot take it back. Reminds me of that Neil Young song Powder Finger. Don’t get me wrong, I love target shooting. It’s just that once the gun is fired, the bullet is gone and can’t be taken back.

  8. Glad I left Palm Coast says:

    Take away their guns and they will find something else to harm someone. Confiscate knives. razors, bats, golf clubs, chain saws. hammers, screwdrivers. need I go on. People with mental health issues have no comprehension of their actions. What is abnormal to us is normal for them, their reasoning is different. from what we perceive. Families should pay attention to the signs. It’s sad to see these people like this who were normal at one time in their lives.

  9. ooops says:

    It sounds to me that the guy offered to let the SO hold on to his legally owned firearms to defuse the appearance of a situation and put those around him at ease. It was a good choice for him and probably encouraged by law enforcement just so they didn’t have to come back that night.

    The hallucinating woman needed more help than just having her legally owned firearms secured, she needed medical help to get her meds right and to stop hallucinating. The firearms were probably seized in part for her safety, but also to so they didn’t leave the gun laying on the kitchen counter while the ambulance took her to the hospital for treatment. So if kids or anyone else having access to the house didn’t walk in and find it.

    Neither sounds to me like the government is over stepping their authority, just trying to make the best outcome from the different scenarios.

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