Volusia County sheriff talks shooting threats, hurricane preparedness on 'The Weekly'

Sheriff Chitwood says awareness is key in both situations

By Justin Warmoth - Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - From preparing residents for Hurricane Dorian to stopping several mass shooting threats, it's been a busy few weeks for Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood. 

Chitwood stopped by News 6 to sit down with anchor Justin Warmoth on "The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com." 

Here's a portion of the interview:

WARMOTH: How do you think Volusia County did when it came to hurricane preparedness this time around? 

CHITWOOD: I think we did really well. I think the county has an A-plus team involved in emergency management and it feeds off with the energy that the cities have. I know the cities of Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Deltona, they really do [a] first-rate job, and together we were ready. You can't be ready for a Category 5 when it comes ashore, and we've seen that in the panhandle, and we've seen it in the Bahamas now. There are certain things you can't control. But I'd venture to tell you that everything in Volusia County that could be controlled, was controlled.

WARMOTH: Because we were mostly spared [from Dorian], is there concern when the next hurricane comes through that people might not heed the evacuation orders? 

CHITWOOD: Always. The term is hurricane fatigue. People say, "You know, I've been in Florida for 10years and it's only rained with a little bit of wind." Well, that's only by the grace of God, especially in Volusia County, that we didn't end up like Mexico Beach did or like the Bahamas did or like what happened in North Carolina. Complacency and hurricane fatigue is your enemy. You know, you always want to prepare for the worst, but pray for the best.

[RELATED: Officials in Volusia County warn of schemes ahead of Hurricane Dorian | 'Be prepared for the worst': Volusia County Emergency Management]

WARMOTH: I want to transition now to mass shooting threats that have been stopped -- specifically by your agency. There have been quite a few in recent weeks. Are you seeing an uptick in these sort of threats?

CHITWOOD: We are and it's a double-edge sword. The good thing is that people are now paying attention. Every one of those tips that have come in have come from citizens who were monitoring something online or someone who was in a relationship with someone, and saw the postings and notified law enforcement immediately. Those things didn't happen before. Nikolas Cruz down in Parkland was posting a lot of stuff that was red flag stuff and nobody notified law enforcement. Now we're seeing an uptick in people making phone calls from people telling us what's been posted. 

WARMOTH: Do you think [mass shooting threats] will slow down in the future? 

CHITWOOD: I think it's going to get worse in the future. One of the disturbing things for me is since Parkland when the red flag laws went into effect and the risk-protection orders -- off the top of my head we've probably filed 118 risk-protection orders already. The overwhelming majority of those folks are mentally ill and have handguns. So, history has taught is that if you're mentally ill, you're angry, you've lost your job, whatever -- you have a grievance -- you're going to use it because you don't care and because they're all suicidal. They want to kill as many people as they can kill, and they want to die in the process.

[RELATED: Seabreeze High student 'vowed' to commit school shooting, deputies say | Sheriff's Office investigates bomb threat at Deltona High School ]

WARMOTH: We've heard a lot about people wanting to ban the sale of assault weapons. Will that do anything, in your eyes, in fixing this horrible epidemic?

CHITWOOD: There are some estimates that there are 20 million assault rifles out there in the country now, so what is a ban really going to do? A ban, in my opinion, is really only going to affect the rightful gun owner and responsible gun owner. The question is: how do you keep that firearm out of the hands of somebody who's mentally ill? How do you do that?

WARMOTH: Have you heard a good answer from anyone? From any lawmaker? 

CHITWOOD: I have not. I've not heard a good answer because how do you know that? I mean, you have somebody right now, it's sad to say this, somebody right now in America is in their garage planning the next mass shooting, and they're not on our radar screen, they're not sending Facebook posts. They're in there right now planning who to kill, where to kill, and how to do it, and we're incapable of stopping that. 

[CHECK OUT: More mass shootings were ahead if these men weren't stopped]

WARMOTH: Well, what would your message be to a family who just wants to go enjoy a night out together without having this in the back of their mind and the possibility that it could happen to them?

CHITWOOD: The No. 1 thing is that all of these individuals want to strike fear in the hearts of their community -- don't let that happen. You also need to be smart. Know your surroundings and you should have a plan. If you're going to go to the movies, figure out where you would go if shots broke out. If a fire broke out, where would you go. Same thing in a restaurant. And I'm a huge proponent of concealed weapons permits. I truly, truly believe that they are the most lawful of lawful citizens. It's the world that we live in. Do everything you can to protect yourself and your family.

You can watch the full interview Sunday at 8 a.m. on News 6.

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