Skip to comments.Lakewood woman's lawsuit forces police to return confiscated firearms(OH)
Posted on 09/17/2011 7:37:59 AM PDT by marktwain
On August 30, the Cleveland Scene reported that after having attempted to get police to return her collection of firearms for an entire year, a Lakewood, OH veteran was finally forced to file a lawsuit against the police department, which had confiscated the collection from her home when she was away.
From the article:
Francesca Rice no longer serves in her country's armed forces, but she brought a piece of the action back home with her.
It seems the Lakewood vet had stockpiled her Edgewater Towers condo with a home arsenal including handguns, shotguns, a sniper rifle plus a Thompson sub-machine gun, just in case the pizza guy got fresh.
Her cache somehow caught the attention of Lakewood Police, who paid a visit last September. When they found Rice wasn't home, they asked an obliging employee of the complex to open up the apartment without her consent. Once inside, they raided the gun rack, making off with 13 firearms worth around $15,000. The only problem: They had no apparent reason to.
When Rice kindly asked to have her toys returned, the cops acknowledged that the weapons were legally owned. But they refused to return them without a court order. And so Rice has filed suit in Lakewood Municipal Court.
In truth, according to a list published by the Lakewood Municipal Court, the firearm incorrectly described by The Scene as a "sub-machine gun" was just a modern, semi-automatic version of the iconic rifle, and the "sniper" rifle was a vintage Chinese SKS M21 semi-automatic carbine.
With the obligatory, incorrect and scary-sounding descriptions we've come to expect from the news media having been included, The Scene continued:
So far, nobody's doing much talking. Lakewood Police Chief Timothy Malley declined to speak specifically about the seizure, citing the ongoing lawsuit. He also declined to speak generally about situations in which Lakewood cops would be likely to seize property on a whim. Rice's attorney did not return Scene's calls for comment, and Rice didn't respond to repeated buzzes on her apartment intercom.
Amid all the zipped lips, there's a moral here for everybody: Gun owners, beware of law enforcement looking to trod upon your rights. And non-gun owners, beware of neighbors who are particularly well prepared for the zombie apocalypse.
Buckeye Firearms has been attempting to learn more about the situation since this article originally was published just over two weeks ago. We were able to determine that Lakewood police had acted based on a situation involving the gun owner's absence from a Virgina VA hospital where she had been receiving treatment.
However, no charges were ever filed, and a year later, Rice's requests to have her guns returned had gone unanswered. (Note: while we don't know ANY of the specifics of Ms. Rice's medical situation in 2010, this is a good example to point to when discussing why our military veterans are often hesitant to seek psychiatric treatment at the VA for some of the more common symptoms faced by troops after they return home, such post-traumatic stress disorder.)
Fortunately, the lawsuit seems to have had its desired effect. From a Cleveland Scene article dated September 14:
Last month we brought you the story of Francesca Rice, an Iraq war veteran in Lakewood whose stockpile of licensed firearms was seized by cops. So Rice, whose service left her disabled, pursued justice the American way: By suing their ass.
Since Scene first reported the story, Rice's arsenal has been restocked and her legal action tabled.
The incident started in September 2010, when Lakewood Police were asked to check on Rice by the VA hospital, where she'd been receiving treatment. Thirteen weapons including a machine gun and sniper rifle were taken when cops suspected Rice's disability prevented her from owning them under Ohio law.
Last week, with no further evidence from the VA that Rice couldn't handle a gun, the police returned her weapons.
"On the advice of my attorney," says Rice, "I have safely and legally stored my collection elsewhere."
We are pleased that Ms. Rice's collection has been returned to her, and wish her all the best.
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.
Looks like all she got were her firearms. I’d like to see her take a chunk out of the chief’s rear end.
Wonder how many cops homes they had to raid to find all the firearms.?
PING to bamahead
She should get a huge settlement, but it says in the last part of the story that her legal action was “tabled”.
To have his happen to any American is an outrage, and to a veteran is dispicable, nazi-like behavior by our thug government.
I am a very strong 2nd Amendment supporter, and doubly so for returning veterans. But to me, when medical personnel request law enforcement to check on a patient it tells me that there is a concern for the safety and well being of the patient. We don't yet know if she expressed a desire to harm herself or others, and/or if that was communicated to the police. Without knowing if she made such a statement, the actions of the police cannot be adequately judged.
confiscated the collection from her home when she was away.
Is there anything about the above statement that would make you think a warrant was ever lawfully served?
I’m havin a bit of trouble here making the connection...
If a bully doesn’t suffer pain and discomfort, we can’t expect him to behave differently.
This veteran and firearms issue is getting a bit out of control. I am receiving treatment at a VA Hospital and every time I go there they always ask me...âHave you been feeling depressed lately?â I have thought about this question many times and I of course say...âNo.â Any veteran that is a gun owner beware of that question. It could come back to haunt you.
Why were the cops aware of her collection in the first place?
I will assume the cops had no warrant or probable cause.
This would then be simple larceny theft.
Or is she was there for an ingrown toenail.
Indeed! Maybe she was distraught over frizzy hair. Or like most women, she has a closet full of shoes, and can't decide whether to wear a pair she already wore, or to get a new pair.
A lot of folks here blaming police, but it was the VA that tipped them off.
Now...was there a warrent issued?
This was outright theft. The D.A. should be pressing charges.
I have no problem with them temporarily taking the firearms based on the information in the article being 100% factual and not some made up pretext to enter her apartment in search of the guns. I.E an anti-gun neighbor complained or an ‘anonymous’ tip.
1. Reported missing
2. Police opened her apartment to check for her
3. They find a cache of guns and the owner is reported missing.
Police should take the guns for safety and security reasons ... since they did essentially break into with her being reported as missing.
However, they should have immediately returned the guns to her after checking on the legality. Now I know that may sound extreme to some, but the check simply has to be done once the firearms are in police custody and being readied to hand back to the owner. They have to make sure that they are not arming somebody who otherwise wouldn’t be entitled. Imagine the outcry that would ensue if they gave’em back without checking then discovered that she couldn’t legally own them — after she guns down few people.
It would be nice if more troubled folks sought God and faith, than the VA.
The VA medicates and dabbles in secular counseling.
I lost a dear friend last year, to PTSD and a self-inflicted gun shot.
She had the VA, but no faith.
VA calls the police: “We are concerned about Ms Rice, who lives at xxxxxx. Would you please check to see that everything is all right?
Police go to xxxxxx. They knock. No answer. The police think, “We have to make sure Ms Rice is not dead or dying inside”.
Police break down the door. They look around. They find the guns. “OMG guns! We cannot leave them here unsecured or where a possibly unstable Ms Rice would have access to them!” “We do not even know if they are all legal!” Bundle them up and impound them.
Now, they do not want to return them, because “If anything would happen, we might be liable”.
Just speculation, but the intersection of the Nanny State with absolute terror of litigation produces horrific results.
“I am a very strong 2nd Amendment supporter, and doubly so for returning veterans. But to me, when medical personnel request law enforcement to check on a patient it tells me that there is a concern for the safety and well being of the patient. We don’t yet know if she expressed a desire to harm herself or others, and/or if that was communicated to the police. Without knowing if she made such a statement, the actions of the police cannot be adequately judged.”
Bullshiite!! The VA does this on a routine basis. My son missed 2 appointments at the Tucson VA hospital last year. After missing the 2nd one I was paid a visit by Yuma County deputies. Law enforcement has no right to confiscate property without cause
Until you find out EXACTLY what information was given to the Lakewood Police, I will render judgement, and not before then.