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Florida sheriff says he’s encouraging gun-toting residents to shoot looters who break into homes

Mostly peaceful protests continue across region

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A Florida sheriff took to Facebook to let everyone out there know that although he supports peaceful protests, he won’t tolerate riots and is “highly recommending” residents shoot any looter who tries to break into their homes.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd took to social media Monday to discuss police brutality protests the day before, stemming from the death of George Floyd -- a black man who died after a Minneapolis officer pinned his knee to his neck.

While most of the demonstrations remained peaceful, some so much so that a law enforcement presence wasn’t needed, there was a group Sunday that began blocking traffic and got out of control.

[Downtown Orlando streets closed for demonstration in response to George Floyd’s death | George Floyd’s death: Here’s 5 ways you can take action]

Judd issued a warning to those protesters, who authorities believed traveled to Polk County from out of the area.

“Let there be no misunderstanding, at all, that if you come here to riot, to loot, to injure people, we’re going to lock you up in the county jail before quick,” Judd said.

He displayed pictures of two men he described as rioters, one wearing clothing designed to keep out chemical agents and the other standing on a car with the windows smashed out.

He said people like those men are distinctly different from the peaceful protesters who have been exercising their right to free speech.

My heart is full with gratitude for our community today. Monday night we had zero incidents of protest-related violence. There were three protests in Polk County—all were peaceful—there was no sign of outside agitators. Yesterday, Chief Ruben Garcia and I, along with Reverend Arthur Johnson and community leader Don Brown spoke to the media about our community-wide commitment to peaceful assembly in Polk County. During the news conference I reminded everyone: “Let there be no misunderstanding, at all, that if you come here to riot, to loot, to injure people, we’re going to lock you up in the county jail before quick.” I also said: “The message is clear, if you come here to peaceably assemble and protest, we’re gonna make sure we protect your constitutional right to do that and we encourage it. But for those who want to come in, stealthily, among those wonderful people who are simply making their position known, the ones that tried to infiltrate, we are going to hunt you down and lock you up if you engage in any criminal conduct." And, I told those at the meeting that we had received information on social media that some folks were threatening to take their criminal conduct into the neighborhoods. That’s not a good idea in Polk County: “I would tell them, if you value your life, they probably shouldn’t do that in Polk County. Because the people of Polk County like guns, they have guns, I encourage them to own guns, and they’re going to be in their homes tonight with their guns loaded, and if you try to break into their homes to steal, to set fires, I’m highly recommending they blow you back out of the house with their guns. So, leave the community alone.” My thanks go out to those who helped organize the peaceful protests in Polk County. This is a great, safe, peace-loving community. I am also thankful for our great Lakeland Police Department and other law enforcement partners for their professional work, and our own men and women who were out in force Sunday and Monday nights, keeping our community safe. As always, if you need us we are here. God bless, Grady

Posted by Polk County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, June 2, 2020

“The message is clear: If you come here to peaceably assemble and protest, we’re gonna make sure we protect your constitutional right to do that and we encourage it. But for those who want to come in, stealthily, among those wonderful people who are simply making their position known, the ones that tried to infiltrate, we are going to hunt you down and lock you up if you engage in any criminal conduct," Judd said.

He also warned that it’s not just the law enforcement officers that looters and rioters should be afraid of.

“I would tell them, if you value your life, they probably shouldn’t do that in Polk County because the people of Polk County like guns, they have guns, I encourage them to own guns, and they’re going to be in their homes tonight with their guns loaded, and if you try to break into their homes to steal, to set fires, I’m highly recommending they blow you back out of the house with their guns. So leave the community alone,” Judd said in a video message shared again on Tuesday.

For days now, demonstrations echoing those nationwide have taken place across Central Florida. Looting and vandalism mostly at area businesses have taken place but thus far, authorities have not provided information on any home invasions connected to the protests.


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