Yesterday, Miguel published a post about a Florida man who was convicted of a felony and will be going to prison for refusing to voluntarily give up his gun to law enforcement under Florida’s red flag law.

In Baltimore, a gun owner suffered an even worse fate for his voluntary non-compliance.

Maryland’s ‘Red Flag’ Law Turns Deadly: Officer Kills Man Who Refused To Turn In Gun

A 61-year-old man is dead after he was shot by an officer trying to enforce Maryland’s new ‘red flag’ law in Ferndale Monday morning.

Anne Arundel County Police confirmed the police-involved shooting happened in the 100 block of Linwood Avenue around 5:17 a.m.

Did you catch what time that happened?  5:17 in the morning.

At 5:17 in the morning, I’m sitting on the toilet, bleary-eyed, with a cup of coffee.  I suspect that many adults are engaged in similar activities that early in the morning.  I’d expect a 61-year-old man – possibly retired – to even be asleep.

There is a reason SWAT likes to raid places early in the AM, to catch suspects asleep and have the element of surprise.  Enforcing a red flag law that early seems like a bad idea.  It puts people who are supposed to be voluntarily submissive at the same level as a suspect about to raided by a SWAT team.  People who just woke up and are tried and irritable are put at a severe disadvantage for compliant behavior.  This feels like a trap.

According to police, two officers serving a new Extreme Risk Protective Order (Red Flag Law), a Maryland protective order to remove guns from a household, shot and killed the man listed on that order.

I suspect we are going to hear about a lot more of these.

“Under the law, family, police, mental health professionals can all ask for the protective orders to remove weapons,” said Sgt. Jacklyn David, with Anne Arundel County Police.

That man was identified as Gary J. Willis of same address.

Officials said Willis answered the door while holding a handgun.

At 5:17 in the morning, so will a lot of people.  Also, obligatory reference to Miguel’s fetish for security cameras and not breaching your own perimeter (which is accurate, even though I am ribbing him).

Willis then placed the gun next to the door.

When officers began to serve him the order, Willis became irate and grabbed his gun.

What did I say about early morning irritability?  I have a feeling this guy woke up to pounding on his door, got his gun to see what was up, and half asleep got into an argument with the cops.

One of the officers tried to take the gun from Willis, but instead Willis fired the gun.

This was a stupid move all around.  Did Willis deliberately fire the gun or did he pull the trigger while wrestling with the cop?

The second officer fired a gun, striking Willis. He died at the scene.

We said this would happen.  We said these red flag laws were going to get people killed.

The Capital Gazette has more details.

‘You’re not taking that!’ Family turmoil preceded fatal police shooting in Maryland’s only red flag death

Only for now.

Gary Willis answered the door Nov. 5 wielding a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum, prompting Zawodny to lower “the hood on his holster.” The 61-year-old set the six-shooter down at the officers’ request. The officers later said he reeked of alcohol.

A drunken guy at 5:17 in the morning.  That is a perfect storm of bad decision-making potential right there.

But as Hooper explained the requirements of the “red flag” order, Willis became increasingly agitated — particularly when they mentioned he’d have to leave the home at 103 Linwood Ave. he’d shared with his family for 20 years.

So they weren’t going to just take his gun, they were taking him out of his home too?  How does that work for a red flag law?

When Willis told the officers he had to use the bathroom, Hooper said he’d have to hand over the revolver first. Then, Willis quickly slid open the sliding door and reached for the revolver.

“You’re not taking that!” he said, according to the officers’ account.

“No, don’t touch it!” Hooper yelled, reaching for the revolver with both hands.

And then a 61-year-old, drunk was shot by police

Details from that fatal encounter at Willis’ door, obtained by Capital Gazette through a request under Maryland’s Public Information Act, spell out how the shooting took place, the family turmoil that led up to it and the one-month investigation that followed.

As a result of the probe, police changed their procedures for serving the orders. Detectives are now involved from the start when the police seek an order and supervisors are involved to increase awareness of tactical safety.

“If evolution keeps my cops from having to use deadly force, it is incumbent upon us to evolve,” county Police Chief Timothy Altomare said. “That doesn’t mean we’ll never have a use of deadly force on an ERPO.”

Maybe I’m too cynical, but I get the feeling that “a use of deadly force on an ERPO” is a feature, not a bug to be avoided.

After the gun went off, Zawodny shot Willis five times. The officer told investigators he didn’t know the revolver went off. As Willis collapsed, Hooper held onto the revolver.

That makes it worse, not better.  His brain registered to shoot the man for reaching for the gun.

Police responded to 103 Linwood Ave. the day before the fatal shooting for a “family dispute.”

Owned by Gary Willis’ elderly mother, Geraldine Willis, the 2,826-square-foot residence is home to a number of family members. Willis and his wife, Dolly Marie Willis, lived in an apartment over the garage, while his brother Bruce Willis and his sister Wanda Walters lived in the main house with their mother.

Gary Willis had been feuding with Walters over the care of their mother, according to the police report. Walters had their mother’s power of attorney and had the locks to the main house changed because Willis, who she described to investigators as an alcoholic, had been harassing her.

On Nov. 4, 2018, the feud peaked.

Family members told detectives that an early- to mid-afternoon argument led Gary Willis to start drinking. He was drunk and argumentative, they said. That evening, Willis returned to the main house and yelled at Walters through a window.

“You’re dead,” Willis said, according to witnesses. “I’m going to shoot you.”

When Bruce Willis told Walters their brother did have guns, she called the police. Officers responded to the scene around 6 p.m.

While police talked to Walters outside the house, Willis commented from the balcony above, prompting officers to move the interview indoors. Officers recommended she apply for an extreme risk protective order.

She went to the District Court Commissioner’s Office in Glen Burnie around 2 a.m. to apply for the order. The commissioner signed protective and red flag orders within the hour.

In Maryland, anyone seeking protective or red flag orders have 24-hour access to the courts, with petitioners going to a commissioner instead of a District Court judge outside normal court office hours.

After talking to Walters, officers climbed the stairs of the apartment to talk to Gary Willis. Three officers said they suspected he was drunk because he slurred his words and spoke redundantly. One said he was aggressive. Willis told them he was upset because Walters would not let him see their mother.

Dolly Willis told investigators that when the officers left, he mixed one more drink and fell asleep.

I’m not a legal expert but I think the whole situation would have been better had he been arrested that evening when he made the actual threat.

Letting him drink some more than trying to enforce the ERPO at 5:17 am made the situation worse.

Hooper had been briefed on the new law, while Zawodny, having just returned from an extensive time off, had not, the police investigation found. Zawodny told investigators he didn’t even know they were serving a red flag order that day.

All officers who hadn’t been on leave had received an instructional on the new law by the day of the shooting, said Sgt. Jacklyn Davis, police spokeswoman. The briefing Zawodny missed had nothing to do with the tactics of serving a red flag order, the same as any civil order — a technique taught in the police academy.

The investigation also showed the officers knew little about what transpired the day before on the property and didn’t know the layout of the residence well, as they struggled to determine which door to knock on to reach Gary Willis.

Altomare agreed with the findings of the State’s Attorney’s Office on the fatal police shooting, saying that “it was handled as well as it possibly could’ve been.”

Two cops going into a situation they are not fully aware of, at 5:17, to disarm a drunk, resulting in the death of a man, I don’ think that was handled all that well.

I have the feeling that the death and casualty toll for these red flag laws is only going to increase.

Most people are not going to voluntarily give up their guns, which means force will have to be used.  That is the only recourse the police have.  That means more people will get shot or go to prison.

But I suspect that is the point.

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By J. Kb

7 thoughts on “Another red flag law casualty”
  1. Of the high profile ERPOs I’ve seen online, I’ve noticed that it’s not the male gender calling them in.

  2. I believe this is the second death by ERPO in Maryland. Not sure though.

    What I suspect will happen is that we are going to continue to see this slow crawl of death as police serve ERPOs on people that aren’t willing to give up their firearms. Or maybe just standing on their Constitutionally Protected right to refuse entry to people without warrants and such.

    This will continue with the death count slowly climbing and the police going “Well, if he was the subject of an ERPO and the fact that he argued/was resisting/didn’t kiss our ABCs is proof that the ERPO was called for. And we are so sorry that we shot him out of an abundance of concern for his safety and the safety of others”.

    Then one day, they are going to go to serve one of these 5AM grabs (the other time they like to do it is at 1700 on a Friday evening. So that the courts and law offices are all closed so the poor sucker doesn’t have access to their lawyer or a real judge). But instead of some drunk they are going to run into a paranoid sucker who’s perimeter alarm went off so he’s awake, in his battle rattle, with a few dozen full mags waiting for those MFs to break down his door.

    And when the police do breach the door they are going to be met with something they just aren’t expecting. And it isn’t going to be pretty. There’s going to be dead and wounded cops and a dead civilian and all sorts of noises about how dangerous it is for civilians to have the ability to fight the cops.

  3. Then there is the whole scenario that the EPRO filing is for 832 Elm St. but the dispatcher (who may need to upgrade his bifocals) reads it as 882 Elm St. and some poor schmuck, with zero connection to the original complaint, is rousted at 5:00 AM. If the “powers that be” decide that a “No Knock” raid is needed, the resident at 882 Elm gets roused to his door being kicked in and people screaming at him. Fearing that he is being attacked by a gang of hoods, he grabs the nightstand gun to defend himself and his family. He ends up dead, maybe one or more cops are dead or wounded, maybe family members are dead or wounded and nobody is held accountable. Lawsuits by the surviving family are dismissed due to sovereign immunity. Handwringing ensues but nothing changes, because the purpose of the ERPO law is to protect women and children.

    1. “No knock raids” a.k.a. SWAT raids, are an even worse Constitutional outrage than what we have here. At least in this case the cops knocked. It’s possible they actually had a warrant, though I can’t tell if they did or if they presented it, as the Constitution requires.
      SWAT kicking in a door is an act of terrorism against a citizen, forbidden by the Constitution. A warrant means not just having a piece of paper, but telling the person in the house that you have one and giving him opportunity to examine it. Kicking in the door or blowing it up is an armed home invasion, which in any civilized jurisdiction authorizes lethal self defense by the resident and murder charges against the invaders if anyone is killed.

  4. Police coming to your house at 0-dark-hundred without a very good reason is clearly an unconstitutional abuse of power, designed only to intimidate the citizenry. Cops who do that should be prosecuted and jailed.

  5. Any deaths of peaceable gun owners is a feature, not a bug.

    Any deaths of violent felons in possession, OTOH, is fascist police brutality, and probably racist.

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