City of Philadelphia Sued for Retaliating Against Gun Rights Advocate

Mark Fiorino Sues Philadelphia Police Department
Mark Fiorino Sues Philadelphia Police Department

American Civil Liberties Union

PHILADELPHIA -( The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the law firm of McCausland Keen & Buckman filed a federal lawsuit today against the city of Philadelphia on behalf of Mark Fiorino, a gun rights advocate who legally carries an unconcealed weapon in public.

The suit alleges that the Philadelphia Police Department filed retaliatory charges against Fiorino after it learned that there was a YouTube recording of Philadelphia police officers threatening to shoot and screaming profanities at an unresisting Fiorino in February 2011. Fiorino was cleared of all charges in October 2011.

“This was a vindictive prosecution of Mr. Fiorino motivated solely by the fact that he publicly embarrassed the Philadelphia Police Department and threatened to sue them for their misbehavior,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

“Citizens have the right to hold police accountable without fear that they will be harassed or prosecuted for doing so.”

Fiorino, a resident of Lansdale, Pa. (Montgomery County), is an avid gun rights supporter and carries his weapon openly holstered on his hip for protection. Despite having the proper license under Pennsylvania law to carry an unconcealed weapon in the city of Philadelphia, Fiorino has been repeatedly harassed by Philadelphia police officers who erroneously believed it is illegal to openly carry a weapon within the city limits. In one instance, despite the fact that Fiorino had broken no law, police confiscated Fiorino’s gun for five months before returning it. Because of these problems, Fiorino routinely audiotapes his interactions with law enforcement.

In September 2010, after an internal affairs investigation of two of Fiorino’s encounters with the police, the Philadelphia Police Department issued a revised policy, Directive 137, which states that holders of a License to Carry Firearms (LCTF) can legally carry an unconcealed weapon. However, according to the lawsuit, the Police Department failed to train its police officers about the revised policy.

On the afternoon of February 13, 2011, nearly five months after the new policy was in place, Fiorino was walking to an auto parts store on Frankford Avenue with his gun in a retention holster on his hip when he heard a voice behind him yell, “Yo, junior, what are you doing?” Fiorino turned around to find Sgt. Michael Dougherty pointing his service weapon at his chest. Fiorino’s offer to provide the officer with his LTCF was ignored. Instead, Sgt. Dougherty ordered Fiorino to get on his knees or else “I am gonna shoot ya.” Sgt. Dougherty was joined by several other officers, who continued to verbally abuse and humiliate Fiorino. Several times, Fiorino advised police officers that he was legally allowed to carry a weapon and referred them to Directive 137. After a forty-five minute ordeal, some of it spent handcuffed and face-down on the sidewalk, Fiorino was released with no charges. Fiorino audiotaped most of the incident.

A month and a half later, the Police Department received a tip that Fiorino’s audio recordings of his encounters with police were posted on YouTube and, according to Department spokesman Lt. Ray Evers, Commissioner Charles Ramsey then ordered a new investigation into Fiorino’s conduct.

Fiorino had also posted on the Internet that he was considering filing a civil rights lawsuit against the police and was seeking donations to fund his suit. The investigation resulted in charges against Fiorino for disorderly conduct and recklessly endangering another person. Fiorino learned there was a warrant for his arrest after five Media officers came to his place of work in Delaware County while he was away. He turned himself in and spent sixteen hours in jail before being released on bail. He was arrested again a week later because the Police Department failed to clear the warrant for his arrest. On October 27, 2011, Fiorino was cleared of all charges.

“A person who hasn’t committed a crime shouldn’t be repeatedly harassed and retaliated against by the police,” said Fiorino. “If the Philadelphia Police Department trained its officers properly so that they actually knew the law, this wouldn't have happened to me. My goal is to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else who, like me, is merely exercising their legal rights.”

The lawsuit charges that several Philadelphia police officers violated Fiorino’s rights by repeatedly detaining him far longer than necessary to make sure that he had a valid license to carry, confiscating his legally carried weapon and refusing to return it for five months, using excessive force, initiating false and retaliatory charges against him and subjecting him to a second arrest. The city of Philadelphia and Commissioner Ramsey are alleged to be responsible for the actions of the individual officers through their failure to train police officers in the law and Commissioner Ramsey’s instigation of the retaliatory charges. The suit seeks damages for Fiorino’s monetary losses, the violation of his rights, and additional harm.

“This case is about public officials who retaliate against citizens who are merely exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Benjamin Picker of the law firm of McCausland Keen & Buckman, one of the attorneys representing Fiorino. “Moreover, this case very clearly exemplifies why the police must know the laws they enforce, because when they don’t, the inexcusable result is the violation of the constitutional rights of those same citizens.”

Fiorino is represented by Picker and Glenn Gitomer of McCausland Keen & Buckman and Mary Catherine Roper and Chris Markos of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. The case is Fiorino v. City of Philadelphia, et al.


  • 10 thoughts on “City of Philadelphia Sued for Retaliating Against Gun Rights Advocate

    1. They just elected another Democrat for mayor in Philadelphia. Democrat Governor, Democrat Mayor, Good Luck with that! The only people holding the line are Pennsylvania’s rural Republicans who are standing up to the ‘tax and spend’ governor.

    2. I’m glad that I left there as a kid and didn’t have to grow up there. As an adult, being forced to live and work close to the city because of my job, I was shocked at how much the area had changed for the worst and I am proud to say that I will never return there. With the exception of Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s, they can flush that city down the sewer and it would be okay with me.

    3. mark this cop should learn how to be respectful of the legal taxpaying american citizens sue this police dept and this sgt doughterty.he should,nt be a cop his actions and words do a great disservice to all cops.

    4. Mr. Fiorino needs to SUE the Philadelphia PD until they bleed, and can no longer disrespect the public; if for no other reason than “Defamation of Character”! I sincerely hope the NRA, National Association for Gun Rights, and any other 2nd Amendment supporting organization, assist this citizen in putting this ignorant PD away. By the way, where’s Mr. O’slamma Jamma’s comments on this stupid police action? If this was a “white on black” incident; he’d have most of Philly burning by this time!

    5. The guys are aholes, typical cop behavior. I know they are scared and they have every right to be, but cops shoot people also. But the fuuing shut up and the constant cussing at him and the complete getting out of control when his friends arrive.

      1. Gee, given the sergeant’s behavior it’s no mystery why he is scared. There’s likely a long list of folks who hope he gets wasted, and some of them likely have been or are presently tempted to do so. I wonder what it’s like to live in that emotional state 40 or so hours a week…wouldn’t be surprised if he has or gets ulcers, heart trouble, or worse…geez…not to mention I would hate to be a member of his family & be compelled to share in his world…

    6. I agree the “suspect” (your term) should comply with the LEOs demands. However, it should take no more than a few seconds for the LEO to verify that the “suspect,” who has done nothing wrong at all, has a valid license to carry, and his “unusual” behavior is perfectly legal, and non-threatening. I’m quibbling with your use of the word “suspect” because it comes from the same root as the word “suspicious,” and only someone acting in a suspicious manner can justifiably be called a suspect – this person was clearly NOT acting suspicious. Every LEO should know the local weapons laws backwards and forwards. I know they can’t be expected to know ALL the laws that well; however, in EVERY SINGLE stop an LEO makes, he is concerned about the presence of weapons. He is allowed to do a “Terry search” for example, at least ostensibly, for his own safety. Since the concern with weapons is such a common and prevalent one, LEOs need to know the laws regarding them better than pretty much any other laws. And frankly, they aren’t that hard or that complicated.
      On the issue of the “suspect” behaving in an unusual manner: There is a big difference between “suspicious,” or “threatening” behavior, and merely “unusual” behavior. The latter does not justify a detention, although it MIGHT justify a stop. If the LEO saw a person walking down the street wearing a gorilla suit, that would unquestionably constitute “unusual” behavior, but it is neither “suspicious” nor “threatening,” and therefore does NOT justify a stop, let alone any detainment.
      By the same token, the presence of a holstered pistol, in a state that allows such behavior (at least with a license)being openly worn by a person who is not acting in either a threatening or suspicious (ie, “as if engaged in, or about to engage in, a criminal activity”) manner, does not justify threatening the person or accosting, much less holding, him at gunpoint. It may justify stopping him to ask to see his license, but that is ALL the LEO is justified in doing. This incident went FAR beyond that.

    7. Officer acted in an aggressive way to a person exhibiting unusual, though lawful behavior. Whether a black thug or a law abiding gun carrier or a priest in full cloth regalia the suspect should comply with the officer.

    8. Sgt. Michael Dougherty, Philly police. Clearly and elitist ass hole. It shows that unless you wear a badge you are the bad guy no matter what.

      I live between to small towns. One town the police department is very descriptive of ass holes like Sgt. Michael Dougherty. The other town, the police are always watchful and respectful. They do their jobs without being another Sgt. Michael Dougherty. I’ve watched them get cursed out by the people they arrest and they still speak respectfully. The officer on the street is very representative of the command at the top.

    9. like one needs another reason to leave this once great city ?
      had some fun with the police myself,although no where near as bad.
      i was only told to stay inside my home,while the section 8 people across the street moved out.
      if i left, i was going to arrested and toss in jail ( his words )
      blow my plans for that day, while they moved out.
      as least they didn’t fire bomb my house like they said they would before.
      yes , i am moving out of here as soon as i can. after black lives matter.
      mine doesn’t here.

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