Miami Beach

Open-carry advocates suing Miami Beach after they were detained while fishing

Six men who were detained while openly carrying guns on their hips as they fished on a Miami Beach pier plan to sue the city over the police department’s response.

The men accuse the Miami Beach Police Department of false arrest and imprisonment, aggravated assault and excessive force, according to a pre-suit notice sent to the city.

The open-carry activists were detained on South Pointe Park Pier on June 24 after park rangers spotted them and notified the police. The men, members of a gun rights group called Florida Carry, were handcuffed and their weapons were confiscated, according to the police incident report. Police closed the pier and checked the men’s licenses, detaining them for almost two hours.

Florida law allows residents “engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting” to openly carry a gun. After police determined the men were within their rights, the men were released and their handguns were returned.

The pre-suit notice was sent to Miami Beach earlier this month, said Eric Friday, an attorney for Florida Carry. Florida residents are required to notify a government agency of their claims and wait six months before filing a lawsuit.

“Those officers committed criminal acts against my members,” Friday said. “At least one of them was injured and possibly a second” while they were being detained, he added.

The men were “detained without reasonable suspicion of any crime,” the pre-suit notice says.

Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez declined to comment because of the legal proceedings, but the police department has previously said officers responded appropriately.

“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,” Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel Oates said in a June email.

The open-carry activists say they sent Oates a letter before the incident notifying him that they planned to fish off South Pointe Pier while carrying handguns.

“We do so as a courtesy because we are not out there to play gotcha games with law enforcement,” Friday said. “We are out there to exercise our fundamental constitutional rights and we do not want confrontations with police.”

Miami Beach police say they never received any such letter from the group.

Friday said the men “absolutely” plan to file a suit once the waiting period has passed.

Mayor Dan Gelber said he “very proudly” stands behind the police officers, who he said did “precisely what they ought to do.”

“Our court system allows any idiot to file anything no matter how asinine. This appears to be one of those instances,” he said.

Miami Herald staff writer David J. Neal contributed to this report.