'Had I Made a Wrong Move, I Would Have Been Shot'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

From Gary, a reader in northern Florida:

I’m a White male, retired State Police Investigator, Military Veteran and State Department Contractor … and I’ve had guns pointed at me by police, most recently while sitting on the couch in my pregnant daughter’s apartment. The previous day she had gotten into an argument with her boyfriend. He threatened her and kicked in the bedroom door where she had sought refuge. She called me and asked me to come over and stay with her because she was afraid to stay alone.

The next night I was on the couch in the living room wearing only shorts and watching TV when her boyfriend showed up with the police. He wanted back in the apartment and had told the cops I owned a gun (which I did and had a concealed carry permit for). The front door was locked and the boyfriend couldn’t get in. The police yelled that they demanded entry and someone had better open the door or it was going to be kicked in. I opened the window and told the police we were not opening the door, my daughter didn’t want the boyfriend to come in, and that I was staying.

The police said they wanted to talk to me outside, not through the window. They called my daughter on her cell phone and threatened to arrest her if she didn't open the door. She asked me what to do and I told her I wouldn’t open the door. She was afraid of being arrested while pregnant and decided to go outside to talk to the police.

As soon as she cracked the door, the police entered the apartment with guns drawn and pointed them at my daughter and me.

They made me stand up and patted me down at gunpoint even though I was just wearing boxer shorts with no pockets. They then began searching the apartment, presumably searching for my firearm—which was legal, so they would have had no right to seize or take. I asked to see a search warrant. They responded they didn’t need one and told me to shut up. I said they did and reached for my phone stating I was calling my attorney. They stopped searching and then began to yell at my daughter, telling her she should have answered the door. I remained seated on the couch and said she was the victim here and not to talk to her like that.

Then an officer came over to me, told me to stand up and said I was under arrest and handcuffed me behind my back. He dragged me outside barefoot and with just my shorts on. I asked why I was being arrested and he said I was interfering. While being taken to the patrol car the officer began to manhandle me, shoving and pulling while loudly saying “Stop resisting.” I replied “I’m not resisting; you’re shoving me and you know it. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

He put me in the back of the patrol car and went back inside the apartment. I am diabetic, so the stress and lack of food caused a low blood sugar reaction. An ambulance was called, I was transported to the local ER, and the police uncuffed me and left.

Two weeks later I received a postcard in the mail that said I had a warrant for my arrest for “resisting arrest without violence.” After hiring an attorney, the charge was dismissed.

The police entered without permission and without a warrant. They began to search without a warrant. I am convinced that had I made a wrong move when they entered with guns pointed, I would have been shot.

I have nearly 30 years of Military and Law Enforcement experience and have been shot at and had to shoot at suspects before, but I am appalled at my experience at the hands of police and I can only imagine what happens in the minority community.