Miami Beach

Open-carry advocates say cops treated them criminally. Police say they did their jobs.

Six men who openly carried guns on their hips as they walked onto a Miami Beach pier with fishing equipment Sunday say they told Miami Beach Chief of Police Daniel Oates they would be coming. The police who detained them committed assault and battery, they claim.

Oates tells a different story. Through a spokesman, he said that the members of Florida Carry gave no notice before dropping in on South Beach's South Pointe Park Pier and that officers' actions fit the situation.

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For his part, New Smyrna Beach resident and Florida Carry executive director Sean Caranna forwarded to the Miami Herald a letter from Lighthouse Point's Christopher Philpot to Oates that says "on June 24, 2018 a few friends and I will be open carrying holstered handguns while fishing off of South Pointe Pier in Miami Beach."

The letter, dated June 7, quotes Florida Statute 790.25(3)(h), which allows a person hunting, camping or fishing to openly carry a gun, and states he's writing Oates because "I’m sure there will be citizens that do not know the law. They may contact law enforcement when they see someone open carrying a holstered handgun."

But Oates said through Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez that he never received any such letter by e-mail or regular mail. Had he seen it, Oates said, he would've made contact with the Florida Carry members just as he has other groups planning public events or protests in Miami Beach.

None of the citizens in South Pointe Park called police Sunday. But a Miami Beach Park Ranger did phone police around 9:50 a.m., when the first four men to arrive quoted the Florida Statue 790.25(3)(h) to him.

"Upon arrival, there were several citizens exiting the pier and motioning to officers to where the males were," the Miami Beach police incident report states. "As officers approached the males with their guns drawn due to the proximity of the firearms to the males (waist holsters), the males were instructed to place their hands on their heads and face away from the officers. The officers on scene quickly handcuffed the four males and secured their firearms without incident."

Two other men showed up openly bearing arms and, similarly, were relieved of their weapons and detained. Police closed the pier. Philpot; Sean Devine, also of Lighthouse Point; Lake Worth's Jonah Weiss; Port St. Lucie's Michael Taylor; Boca Raton's Steven Jenkins; and Cutler Bay's Carlos Gutierrez were detained for almost two hours.

After all licenses were checked, police returned the handguns.

Both the police and Florida Carry said all the men then went home, except for Weiss, who stayed for 20 minutes before leaving. Caranna said Taylor suffered a shoulder injury when taken down by police and was treated at an urgent care facility. Taylor streamed a video of the incident on Facebook live.

"Our members broke no laws, the open carry law is not new or obscure, and the police had prior notice that we would be there," Caranna said in an email to The Miami Herald. "Miami Beach police officers escalated the incident and engaged in a very dangerous and criminal aggravated assault, battery, and illegal detention of our members. Pointing guns at people who are fishing just because they have a safely holstered handgun is outrageous. We will be asking the Attorney General to prosecute this criminal behavior against our members."

Oates said in a Sunday night email, "Given the current climate, if six people show up to a pier in South Beach carrying guns, our citizens expect us to respond promptly and address any potential danger. We did so, and I am confident our officers acted appropriately."

Florida Carry, a registered corporation since 2011, describes itself on its website as a "non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to advancing the fundamental civil right of all Floridians to keep and bear arms for self defense as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I Section 8 of the Florida Constitution."