The case of a Lakeland woman who was arrested when she went to the Lakeland Police Department to turn in firearms she took from her estranged husband’s home has caught the attention of a state legislator. Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando, said she will ask State Attorney Brian Haas not to prosecute.
“The case of Courtney Taylor Irby demonstrates once more the dangerous linkage between intimate partner violence and access to firearms,” Eskamani wrote in a blog post on Medium. “Court records show that Irby applied for a temporary injunction against her husband and the two were in the process of a divorce. She was actively protecting herself and her family from an estranged husband who had not turned over his firearms to law enforcement, and was arrested for it. We should be outraged by her arrest, and Irby should not be prosecuted by the local State Attorney’s office.”
In an email to LkldNow, Eskamani said she will write a letter to Haas asking him not to prosecute and added, “We aren’t done advocating for her.”
The case has generated heated arguments on Facebook (here, here and here) between people outraged over the arrest of a woman seeking protection for herself and her children and those who support the arrest since she entered a home where she didn’t live and took possessions.
Police Chief Ruben Garcia responded to the controversy by telling News Channel 8, “We have to safeguard every citizen’s rights. When a case is brought to us, we have to look at all sides of the cases and come to the fairest conclusion we can for everyone involved.”
When Irby turned in the guns in last Saturday, she admitted that she entered her husband’s apartment without permission. An officer contacted her husband, Joseph Irby, who had just been arrested by Bartow police on charges of using his car as a weapon against his wife, and asked if he wanted to press charges. He said he did.
Heavy.com’s coverage of the case includes a screen shot of the LPD affidavit:
When Joseph Irby was released Saturday on $10,000 bail, Judge Sharon Franklin ordered him not to use, possess or carry any weapons or ammunition.
Soon after the hearing, Courtney Irby had taken the weapons — a handgun and a rifle, according to her attorney, Lawrence Shearer, in a request to grant bail.
In her blog post, Eskamani noted that a recent Florida law allows law enforcement agencies to file for a “risk protection order” and have guns removed from people who may be a danger to themselves or others. That “should have happened in this case,” she wrote.
Dr. Linda Parker, director of victim services at Peace River Center, told News Channel 8 her agency advises victims to work through established social service organizations and law enforcement agencies.
“We do live in an area where you can have a license to carry. We really encourage our survivors to talk to police, talk to authorities to let them know that’s a palpable fear,” she said.
Joseph Irby’s attorney, Robert Peddy, told Fox 13 News he’s concerned his client’s wife dramatized the claims. Peddy told the station Joseph Irby works hard, is a good, calm family man, and that real facts will eventually come out.
In Tampa, State Attorney Andrew Warren tweeted, “Courtney Irby’s arrest is a disgrace. In @HillsboroughFL, we disarm domestic abusers who have legally forfeited their right to having a gun, and we always stand with survivors–not arrest them.”
The case has received attention from activist Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland school massacre.
In a tweet he tried to direct to Polk Sheriff Grady Judd, he said, “this woman was arrested in your county for protecting herself and her children from her husband who was already in jail for abuse. She attempted to turn in his guns to you, the police. You need to release this woman and protect her from him.”
The next court appearances for Joseph Irby and Courtney Taylor Arby are individually scheduled for July 16.
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