Woman Arrested After Turning In Estranged Husband’s Guns to LPD

A woman was arrested at the Lakeland Police Department headquarters after attempting to turn over guns belonging to her estranged husband while he awaited his release from jail on bail for a felony domestic violence charge.

Courtney Taylor Irby, 32, faces two counts of grand theft of a firearm and one count of armed burglary after telling an LPD officer Saturday she had, out of fear for her life, entered Joseph Irby’s home, took two guns and then wanted to hand them over to police for safekeeping.

No bail was offered on the latter charge and she remains in jail pending a motion for reasonable bail scheduled for a hearing Thursday. Courtney Irby’s attorney did not respond to a message left at his office Wednesday.

“My sister was hysterical,” Haley Burke wrote in an email to LkldNow about Irby, who is known to friends by her middle name Taylor. “She knew that this just poked the bear, and he would be coming after her. In the (hopes) of protecting herself and her children, she did the one thing that she thought would help save her life. She went to his apartment, gathered his arsenal of firearms and Kevlar and took them to the police station. She just knew that if the police had the guns, she would be safe for just a little while longer.”

Burke did not answer a call or return a message left on her voicemail Wednesday.

Courtney Taylor Irby Photo by Rob Christian Crosby

Joseph Irby, 35, had been arrested Friday by Bartow Police after officers said he tried to use his vehicle as a weapon against Courtney Irby.

The two had been at the courthouse in Bartow leaving a divorce hearing. They have been separated since December.

The affidavit says Courtney Irby told the officers that “after court the victim and the defendant engaged in a verbal altercation. The victim arrived to her vehicle and attempted to leave the courthouse. The defendant followed behind her in his vehicle and began ramming his vehicle front bumper into the back of the victim’s rear bumper.”

Courtney Irby called the police, eventually got away and made it to the Bartow Police Department, where an officer said she “observed scratches on the victim’s rear bumper.”

While Courtney Irby was at the BPD office, Joseph Irby sent a photo to her indicating he was at their child’s day camp where Courtney Irby was to pick up their child, records say.

The officer followed Courtney Irby to the camp where Joseph Irby was waiting, according to the report.

“The defendant further stated he had scratches on his vehicle however, they were old damages,” the officer wrote. The officer also “observed (several) scratches and what appeared to be transferred pain from the victim’s vehicle on the defendant’s left side bumper.”

Joseph Irby was arrested. After being handcuffed, he told the officer she was “a man hater and an asshole,” according to the arrest document. Irby’s lawyer, Robert Peddy, did not return a message left at his office Wednesday.

Courtney Irby was granted a temporary restraining order against Joseph Irby soon after the arrest. A hearing that could extend or retract the order is set for June 28.

Joseph Irby was released Saturday on $10,000 bail. Courtney Irby had testified by telephone during the hearing, telling Judge Sharon Franklin “about her fear of danger from Joseph,” according to her lawyer. As part of the pre-trial release conditions, Joseph Irby was ordered not to use, possess or carry any weapons or ammunition.

Soon after the hearing, Courtney Irby had taken the weapons, according to her attorney, Lawrence Shearer, in a request to grant bail.

But in the motion, Shearer argues that Joseph Irby is not Courtney Irby’s “ex-husband,” as had been written in the report. He also said that while she had taken a rifle and a handgun from his home, it did not constitute theft, as Joseph Irby would be able to retrieve the weapons from LPD “assuming he was not lawfully barred from possessing weapons upon his release.” Additionally, Courtney Irby, by turning over the guns to the police, had no intention to “appropriate the property to her own use or the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property,” as described in state law, he said.

He also cites Courtney Irby’s absence of a criminal history and her “great many ties to the community, to be demonstrated at a hearing on this motion.”

Among other activities, Courtney Irby has been a style editor and writer for The Lakelander and founder of a small fashion accessory company.

Joseph Irby requested a restraining order against Courtney Irby after her arrest but was denied a temporary injunction ahead of a hearing. A hearing on the request is set for June 28.

In the request for an injunction, Joseph Irby accused Courtney Irby of being “(volatile) and aggressive during divorce proceedings” and claimed she has made false allegations to the court and to the community.

In the statement he also said she had “previously stolen a third firearm which is still in her possession. I didn’t report this gun as stolen because she has tried to portray me as the aggressor and I was advised that pursuing this would poorly reflect on me for ‘trying to get the gun back for aggressive reasons.’”

LPD spokeswoman Robin Tillett said while the situation is complicated, Courtney Irby had no right to enter her husband’s home. LkldNow requested information regarding her previous contact with the department and is awaiting a response.

When a person is ordered to give up their guns as part of an injunction or pre-trail release agreement, there is no automatic enforcement method to take those guns away, Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brian Bruchey said.

The Sheriff’s Office is not involved in this case, though it had taken an “information report” from Courtney Irby in December regarding her husband, Bruchey said.

“We really don’t have authority to take firearms from people unless they are surrendered or there is a court order,” Bruchey said.

If a person, upon receiving an injunction or a pre-trial release agreement, say they have no firearms to hand over, “that’s pretty much it,” Bruchey said. “We can’t do anything, unless they willfully do it — release them to us.”

There is no indication in court documents that the existence of the guns was in question, or that Joseph Irby had intended to conceal their existence or retain them despite the court orders.

“Technically if the person does have firearms they are in violation of the injunction or pre-trial release but it’s one of those things — it’s kind of hard to enforce, really. You’d have to have somebody to say ‘I know exactly where they are’ … and you’d have to get a search warrant for it. It’s one of those things you hope people do the right thing and surrender their guns,” Bruchey said.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act, passed in 2018, gave police departments the power to request “risk protection orders” to take guns away from people who may be a danger to themselves or others.

“If she knew he had weapons, the judge would be able to order for the police to actually get them,” Bruchey said.

“We use those often if there is a threat made by somebody and they have access to weapons. … We would ask for an RPO, that way we could get those guns. Unfortunately it sounds like she went about it the wrong way.”

Though the Lakeland police filed the affidavit, the State Attorney’s Office has yet to weigh in on the case and assign formal charges. An arraignment, where Courtney Irby will be presented the charges by the state and will be given a chance to plea, is scheduled for July 16.

If the motion for bail or any other pre-trial release agreement  is denied, she will await the trial in jail.

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