Toledo police seize gun; Leave temporary CHL-holder defenseless

The Toledo Free Press is reporting that although a man with a temporary emergency concealed handgun license was not charged with a crime, police have seen fit to confiscate and hold his handgun (despite an Ohio law which suggests such action by the Toledo police officers was illegal).

From the story:

    A North Toledo man said threats on his life and high levels of gang activity in his Lagrange Street neighborhood have prompted him to begin
    carrying a gun.

    But tensions between residents and local youth might have finally boiled over. Thomas Szych, of 532 Bronson Ave., had his firearm seized by police on Aug. 3 after a call to 911 reported a man with a gun in the alley between Bronson and Dexter streets. According to police, Szych was videotaping his next-door neighbors cleaning up garbage in the alley when he brandished his gun in front of an 11-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy.

    “We questioned both of the boys individually, and they both described the gun in their little unique ways,” Toledo Police Sergeant Joe Heffernan said. “It seems pretty evident to me that both those boys saw his gun. They both gave a pretty accurate description of it in their own words.”

    While Szych admits to having a gun with him, he denies ever leaving his front porch or taking the gun out of its holster attached to his belt under his shirt.

According to the story, there has been a recent outbreak of gang related activity in Mr. Szych's area. Sgt. Heffernan told the City Paper there have been more than a dozen officers at Szych’s house in the two weeks due to gang-related concerns in the neighborhood, and that city crews have had to come out and paint over a lot of gang graffiti. Mr. Szych is thus concerned about the police disarming him, because those gang members now know he has no protection.

Again from the story:

    “I’m very upset because now all these gangs [that] were out there know I don’t have a gun now,” said Szych, a resident of the neighborhood for 35 years. “They know I have no protection for my family.”

    Szych was licensed to carry a concealed weapon after obtaining a temporary concealed carry permit from the Lucas County Sheriff ’s Office two weeks ago. But now he must petition police to have the gun returned to him.

The policy that led to the confiscation of Mr. Szych's firearm was described by Toledo Police Sergeant Joe Heffernan:

    “If we feel that, for whatever instance it may be, it is dangerous for that person to be in possession of his firearm for the greater safety of everyone involved, then we can take it and book it under what we call ‘safe keeping,’ ” Sgt. Heffernan said.

    “It doesn’t mean they can’t get them back. It just means until things calm down and cooler heads prevail ... we keep them.”

    The prosecutor’s office determined there was not enough evidence to follow through with issuing charges after the gun-pointing incident last week. The case instead was sent to Citizens Dispute Settlement Program. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

According to Ohio's CHL Law, it is illegal for police to confiscate a CHL-holder's firearm at the termination of the stop if he is not charged with a violation of the CHL statute or arrest the person for any offense:

    ORC 2923.12.(H) If a law enforcement officer stops a person to question the person regarding a possible violation of this section, for a traffic
    stop, or for any other law enforcement purpose, if the person surrenders a firearm to the officer, either voluntarily or pursuant to a request or demand of the officer, and if the officer does not charge the person with a violation of this section or arrest the person for any offense, the person is not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing the firearm, and the firearm is not contraband, the officer shall return the firearm to the person at the termination of the stop.

Sgt. Heffernan's apparent lack of knowledge about this section of Ohio law officers may come from a bit of willful ignorance, since it appears police are more concerned about this CHL-holder than about the gang activity.

    “He’s aware of the law and what he’s supposed to do in case of an emergency, and other than that, there’s nothing we can do,” Heffernan said. “He’s a grown man. If he wants to go outside and start shooting a gun off, well then, he’ll be the one going to jail.”

Are Toledo Police truly more concerned about this CHL-holder than the gangs that are threatening he and his family? If past actions of city officials are weighed in, the answer certainly appears to be yes.

Related Story:
Want a change in Toledo? Vote Rob Ludeman for Mayor on September 13.

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