By Dan Roberts
Manasquan, NJ –-(Ammoland.com)- Philadelphia area resident Mark Fiorino has filed a Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia and its Police Department over an incident that occurred almost exactly a year ago.
Its February 13th 2011 and the Delaware Valley resident is in Philadelphia visiting a relative. While in the area he took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to walk to a local Auto Parts store to pick something up. It was during this walk that Fiorino was attacked and held at gun point.
Not by one of the all to numerous criminal thugs that roam the streets of Philadelphia preying on its residents, but by thugs with badges, representing the City of Brotherly Love.
You see, Fiorino openly carries his handgun, a practice that is completely legal inside the City if one holds a License To Carry Firearms, and legal everywhere else in the State of Pennsylvania without the need to have an LTCF if the party is on foot. But there is a problem, the leadership in City Hall and the Police Department don't like the practice and have a long and well documented history of making every aspect of a Citizen practicing his or her Second Amendment Rights as difficult and onerous as possible.
During his trek to the store, a Philadelphia Police Sgt passed by, observed Fiorino's safely holstered firearm on his hip, and with no indication that any type of criminal activity was actually afoot, immediately stopped his cruiser and confronted Mr Fiorino at gun point. (more on this story and video here)
Fiorino stayed remarkably calm and fully compliant with the Sgt, including offering numerous times to show the Officer his License to Carry and even referencing a recently released directive from the Philadelphia Police that advised Officers that the practice Fiorino was engaged in was legal and did not amount to a crime.
But Sergeant Dougherty was having none of it. Instead of attempting to de escalate the situation by actually listening to what a compliant Citizen was trying to tell him, Dougherty doubled down, continuing to hold Fiorino at gun point, while radioing for back up Officer's, who, once on scene forced Fiorino to the ground violently and cuffing his hands behind his back.
Sgt Dougherty and the responding Officers discovered during a pat down search Mr Fiorino was carrying a pocket digital recorder and had captured the entire encounter on it, enraging them further. One Officer can even be heard attempting to destroy the device, which would of course destroy any evidence of their behavior. This despite the fact that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has previously ruled that even though Pennsylvania is considered a ” two party ” State as the law pertains to recording people, meaning both parties must be aware of and consent to the recording of their conversation in order to avoid violation of the State's Wire Tapping Law, Police Officers in the performance of their duties in public have no such expectation of privacy and recording them in such settings is perfectly legally.
Sadly, their attempts to destroy evidence of their illegal behavior is not without precedent. Recall the group of undercover Narcotics Officers that were caught in 2009 shaking down and stealing from a local bodega owner. The Officers involved in that incident were caught on tape, by a hidden camera they didn't find, confiscating the video tapes from the stores security camera's, which captured evidence of their crimes against those they had sworn an oath to protect.
Fiorino sat in the back of a paddy wagon for approximately forty five minutes while Officers made numerous phone calls to supervisors and the District Attorney's Office, until they confirmed what Fiorino had been telling them all along was correct. Openly carrying a firearm, with no other observed behavior to indicate a crime was in progress or about to take place was no violation of the law. Fiorino was released from the scene, with his sidearm, with not even the threat of potential charges for any act at a later date, and not even so much as an apology from the Officers for their treatment of the him.
In March 2011, Fiorino published the audio recording of his encounter to Youtube and a local Firearms Rights website, The Pennsylvania Firearms Owners Association, as a warning of sorts to other Citizens of what they should expect to experience at the hands of Philadelphia Police Officers if they choose to exercise their rights in a lawful manner, but one that the powers that be don't personally approve of.
The recording rapidly went viral, garnering attention and commentary from across the Country.
Fast forward to April 2011. After certain Philadelphia Police became aware of the enormous amount of attention Mr Fiorino's recordings were garnering on the internet and in other media formats, a decision was made to charge Mr Fiorino with several minor criminal charges. Not because there was actual evidence to support said charges, but clearly as a retaliatory move on the part of the Command structure within the Philadelphia Police because of their embarrassment over the recordings and in a deliberate effort to both punish Mr Fiorino for exercising his rights and to discourage any future efforts by Mr Fiorino or any other Citizens from revealing the blatantly abusive and Un Constitutional practices indoctrinated within the ranks of the Philadelphia Police Dept.
On October 27th, 2011. Mr Fiorino's criminal case was heard before the Court of Common Pleas and he was exonerated of all charges by the Judge. Now today, almost a year to the day from when this completely unnecessary incident occurred, Mr Fiorino, with the assistance of the ACLU has filed a Federal Civil Rights Suit against the City of Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Police Dept and the individual Officers involved for their egregious and unwarranted violations of his 1st, and 4th Amendment Rights.
After reviewing the complaint, listed here http://tiny.cc/ahrk1, from a legal perspective, the City and Police Dept don't have a leg to stand on in defending their actions and overt disregard for the rights of Citizens.
All indications suggest, Mr Fiorino will not entertain settlement offers, and in fact is not necessarily motivated by any potential monetary settlement, but more out of a desire to compel the City of Philadelphia and The Police Dept and its Officers to do what they should have been doing all along. Respecting the rights of the Citizens they serve, including the right to lawfully carry a firearm for self defense instead of regurgitating the Anti Gun dogma that passes for sound policy decisions. One way or the other, this suit will cost the City and its leaders. In financial terms, and certainly in stature and any modicum of respect, and despite their best efforts at character assassination of Mr Fiorino and other Citizens, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Hopefully the voters in the City will wise up and start electing leaders that actually practice what they preach, the respect and protection of all people's rights, even those they don't agree with.
More articles, commentary and information by Dan Robert available at That Every Man Be Armed.com