State police in Maryland have launched an internal investigation into an incident where a man reported being stopped by an officer and asked, “Where is your gun?”
But social media isn’t waiting for the results, with countless calls for a lawsuit over the incident that happened over the holiday period as John Filippidis, described in his local newspaper as a “silver-haired family man, business owner, employer and taxpayer,” drove through Maryland returning from family events in New Jersey to his Florida home.
And an expert on the Fourth Amendment’s assurance of protection for Americans’ privacy says in a few years, police won’t even need to ask such questions, since they’ll have drones flying overhead with sensors that will tell them if there is a weapon in a vehicle.
The driver’s version of the story was chronicled by, among others, columnist Tom Jackson in the Tampa Tribune.
Jackson said Filippidis ordinarily carries a gun because of the cash he carries for his work.
But when he went on a family trip, he left it locked in a safe in his home.
Reported Jackson, “So there the Filippidises were on New Year’s Eve, southbound on Interstate 95 – John; wife Kally (his Gulf High sweetheart): the 17-year-old twins Nasia and Yianni; and 13-year-old Gina in their 2012 Ford Expedition – just barely out of the Fort McHenry Tunnel into Maryland, blissfully unarmed and minding their own business when they noticed they were being bird-dogged by an unmarked patrol car. It flanked them a while, then pulled ahead of them, then fell in behind them.” Such maneuvers took maybe 10 or 15 minutes, reports said.
Eventually the lights went on, and Filippidis pulled over.
The officer, from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, asked about license and registration details, and returned to his vehicle.
Then he came back, ordering Filippidis out of the vehicle, and to hook his thumbs behind his back and spread his feet.
“You own a gun,” said the officer. “Where is it?”
At home, said Filippidis.
The officer then asked Kally Filippides, who said she didn’t know. Then she added, maybe in the glove box, or in the console – she didn’t know.
The result? The Expedition was emptied of all people, possessions and packages. An hour passed, maybe more. Much later, no weapon found, they resumed their trip.
Many of nearly 2,000 comments about the article on the Tampa site encouraged a lawsuit. Some in terms that weren’t so polite.
“I’d sue the cr-p out of them!” wrote one person.
“Contact an attorney,” said another.
“It was just a hot head cop thinking he was gonna catch someone doing something wrong,” another said.
“For what reason did the officer pull him over? Why was he profiled in such a manner. I’d sue …”
Police said there was limited information they could release, since an internal investigation was under way. Formally, they said, “A preliminary review indicates that all proper protocols were followed throughout the Dec. 30, 2013, 55-minute traffic stop of I-95, which was initiated for a speeding violation.”
However, 1st Sgt. Jonathan Green told WND that, generally, officers in his department are trained to look beyond the surface of any traffic stop and question whether anything is wrong.
He said a “warning” was issued during the traffic stop, but no ticket that would require a formal response.
Further details were being withheld pending the outcome of the investigation, which was launched after a complaint.
But Fourth Amendment expert John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute said those online commenters probably have it right – there should be a court case.
As the author of “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State,” Whitehouse doesn’t hide his opinion that Americans already are living under a police state – and that needs to change.
An attorney, he’s pursued civil liberties issues for decades, earning the Hungarian Medal of Freedom. Probably one of his highest profile roles came as co-counsel in Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton.
He told WND about the current issue that the federal government, through the Department of Homeland Security, had been handing out license plate readers to local police agencies across the country – and those identify drivers, immediately providing to officers details such as driving records and whether a concealed weapons permit exists.
But Whitehead said police still are supposed to have probable cause to do surveillance on an individual, and that’s what monitoring a vehicle in traffic for an extended period amounts to.
That means some evidence of illegal activity, not just a “suspicion,” he said.
“This is only going to get worse,” he also told WND.
Soon, he said, there will be a police drone flying over traffic, scanning vehicles, and telling authorities if there is an weapon in any of the vehicles.
“This new technology completely bypasses all constitutional protections,” he said, allowing government to collect nearly unlimited information on individuals, such as what the National Security Agency has been doing with telephone call monitoring.
“We live in a police state,” he said.
Jackson wrote in his commentary that Filippidis decided to leave his palm-sized Kel-Tec handgun at home specifically because he didn’t want to deal with local rules and regulations about carrying.
“I know the laws and I know the rules,” Filippidis told Jackson. “But I just think it’s a better idea to leave it home.”
But it wasn’t enough, he said, recalling his encounter.
“All that time, he’s humiliating me in front of my family, making me feel like a criminal,” he told Jackson. “I’ve never been to prison, never declared bankruptcy, I pay my taxes, support my 20 employees’ families; I’ve never been in any kind of trouble.
“And he wants to put me in jail. He wants to put me in jail. For no reason. He wants to take my wife and children away and put me in jail. In America, how does such a thing happen? … And after all that, he didn’t even write me a ticket.”
Jackson reported there was an apology from the police agency, but Green said that couldn’t be confirmed, as it would be part of the internal review.
The National Rifle Association, after WND asked for its perspective on the dispute, released a statement late Friday that warned gun owners that even trying to comply with all the laws appears not to be sufficient to avoid trouble in some cases.
The NRA said the account is a “disturbing story of a man who found himself on the receiving end of some aggressive and heavy-handed police tactics, apparently for nothing more than being under suspicion of owning a firearm.”
The organization said the story “appears to be a cautionary tale as to why gun owners should be highly suspect of ‘universal background checks’ and other initiatives that promise to create records of their ownership or involvement with firearms, however innocent or legal. As ideological and political attacks on Second Amendment rights continue, even great caution and compliance with the law will not necessarily spare gun owners grief for exercising their rights.”