Topic:
WARRANTS; FIREARMS; SEARCH AND SEIZURE; GUN CONTROL; POLICE DEPARTMENTS;
Location:
WEAPONS - FIREARMS;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


August 1, 2000

 

2000-R-0789

GUN SEIZURES UNDER PA 99-212

 

By: Veronica Rose, Principal Analyst

You asked how many police departments have applied for gun seizure warrants pursuant to PA 99-212.

This report is based on Judicial Department information and responses to an OLR survey of the State Police and local police departments. Departments do not maintain the data in a readily retrievable format. For the most part, the number of warrants departments reported to us is based on officers' recollections. Thus, the information in this report should not be construed as comprehensive.

SUMMARY

At least 20 police departments and the State Police have applied for warrants (29 applications) to seize guns under PA 99-212 (Table 1). Farmington and Rocky Hill applied for two warrants. New Britain, West Hartford, and the State Police applied for three. The other departments applied for one each.

Twenty-seven of the 29 warrant applications were granted. A judge denied one for want of probable cause, and the intended subject of another voluntarily surrendered his guns before the warrant was signed.

Of the 27 cases in which warrants were executed, the police found guns in 18. In five cases, no guns were found. Information is not available on the other four applications.

We are aware of only two of the unresolved cases in which the court did not uphold the gun seizure. In one case, it directed the police to return the guns; in another, it directed them to transfer the guns to a relative of the subject.

The following 16 departments did not respond to the survey: Bethel, Branford, Clinton, Coventry, Danbury, Eastern Connecticut State University, East Hartford, Guilford, Madison, Naugatuck, New Milford, Stamford, Thomaston, Waterford, West Haven, and Yale University. In addition, New Milford informed us that it would only complete the survey if required by law to do so, and Farmington and Greenwich said they had ongoing investigations and would not release any information. Some departments did not report all the requested information; this is indicated on the table.

Table 1 summarizes the findings. The balance of the report summarizes PA 99-212 and the circumstances that triggered the applications.

TABLE 1: WARRANT APPLICATIONS PURSUANT TO PA 99-212

Police Department

Number of Applications

Complainant

Basis for Application

Results of Application

Case Outcome

Danbury

1

See summary of the Danbury case

Threatened to kill people he thought were going to kill him

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; guns found; court ordered them held for one year

Darien

1

Coworker

Threatened to kill wife and self

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; no guns found

Fairfield

1

Son

Threatened suicide, led police officer in chase while armed with gun

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; guns found; no other information reported

Farmington

2

Information not reported in either case

Information not reported in either case

Case 1—warrant issued

Case 2—warrant issued

Case 1—warrant executed; case pending; will not release information

Case 2-—warrant executed; case pending; will not release information

Greenwich

1

Information not reported

Information not reported

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; case pending; will not release information

Manchester

1

Wife

Threatened to kill wife

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; guns found

Meriden

1

Caseworker

Threatened to kill neighbor

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; no guns found

Monroe

1

Information not reported

Information not reported

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; no guns found

New Britain

3

Information not reported in any of the cases

Information not reported in any of the cases

Cases 1, 2, & 3—warrants issued

Case 1—warrant executed; no guns found

Case 2—warrant executed; guns found

Case 3—warrant executed; no other information reported

Newington

1

Health care provider

Suicide threats

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; guns found; judge ordered them held for one year

North Branford

1

Police

Threatened to shoot neighbors, coworkers, and self

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; guns found; no other information reported

North Haven

1

Information not reported

Unknown; case pending, limited information reported

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; guns found

Norwich

1

Employer

Workplace threat

Warrant Issued

Warrant executed; guns found; judge ordered them handed over to relative

Rocky Hill

2

Case 1—estranged wife

Case 2—unclear

Case 1—threatened on three occasions to kill wife

Case 2—threatened to kill town employees

Case 1—warrant issued

Case 2—warrant issued

Case 1—warrant executed, guns found; no other information reported

Case 2—warrant executed; guns found; no other information reported

Seymour

1

The employer of the subject's ex-girlfriend

Threatened to kill ex-girlfriend

Subject voluntarily surrendered guns before warrant was signed

Not Applicable

Simsbury

1

Information not reported

Unknown; case pending; department provided limited information

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; guns found; criminal case pending

Stamford

1

Ex-girlfriend

Threatened to kill ex-girlfriend and family

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; guns found; judge ordered them held

Torrington

1

Doctor

Threatened to kill ex-wife

Warrant issued

Warrant executed; guns found; no further information reported

West Hartford

3

Case 1—subject

Case 2—brother

Case 3—therapist

Case 1—Korean veteran having combat flashbacks

Case 2—reported depression; access to guns; refusal to eat or answer the door or phone

Case 3—threatened to kill self and partner

Cases 1, 2, & 3—warrants issued

Case 1—warrant executed; guns found; no other information reported

Case 2—warrant executed; guns found; no other information reported

Case 3—warrant executed; no guns found

Wolcott

1

Mother

Suicide threats

Warrant denied for lack of probable cause

Not Applicable

State Police

3

Case 1—unclear

Case 2—visiting nurse

Case 3—sister

Case 1—road rage, chased and shot at victims

Case 2—suicide threats

Case 3—threatened to kill sister and self

Cases 1,2, & 3—warrants issued

Case 1—warrant executed; guns found; court ordered them returned

Case 2—warrant executed; guns found

Case 3—warrant executed; guns found

REQUIREMENTS OF PA 99-212

PA 99-212 allows police, under limited circumstances and following specified procedures, to seize guns pursuant to a warrant from anyone posing an imminent risk of hurting himself or someone else. Within 14 days of the seizure, a judge must decide if the guns should be returned. If the judge decides to hold them, they must be returned after one year.

Police can apply for the warrant only after (1) conducting an "independent investigation" establishing probable cause and (2) determining that no "reasonable alternative" exists to prevent the person from causing harm with any guns he may have. The act does not define "independent investigation" or delineate examples of "reasonable alternatives." But the floor debate indicates legislators believed that police should talk to witnesses and corroborate allegations. And a Superior Court memorandum on the subject (discussed below) identifies consensual search as the most obvious alternative to the search warrant. Legislators suggested other alternatives during the floor debate, including civil commitment and arrest. (For a more detailed treatment of the floor debate, see attached OLR Report 2000-R-0196.)

CIRCUMSTANCES THAT TRIGGERED APPLICATIONS

Danbury

The subject told police that he believed people, including law enforcement officers, were trying to kill him and that he was going to use his guns against them. His sister said he had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse and in the past had threatened to kill her and himself.

Darien

A coworker reported that the subject had threatened to kill himself and his terminally ill wife because of his potential arrest and job termination. The police interviewed the coworker and confirmed the threat.

Fairfield

The subject's son told the police that his father, who was the subject of a federal child pornography probe, had taken sleeping tablets and left the house with a gun after threatening suicide. The subject led responding officers in a pursuit while armed and refused to surrender his gun.

Manchester

The subject's estranged wife told the police that she was afraid of her husband, a gun owner, who had threatened to "take her down." The police interviewed her, her son, and the subject's psychiatrist. The son confirmed in a sworn statement that the subject had many guns. The psychiatrist described his escalating abuse of prescription drugs and told the police that she believed he was in imminent danger of harming himself or someone else.

Meriden

The subject, who was being treated for a psychiatric disability, allegedly threatened to kill his neighbor during a dispute involving a theft. He told his caseworker that he had a gun in his apartment and was going to get it. Police investigation revealed that he was a convicted felon with an extensive history of violent crimes.

Newington

The subject allegedly threatened to commit suicide. The police interviewed his ex-girlfriend; the health care provider, who made the report; and the subject, who confirmed the threat. He said he was on medication for bipolar disorder (manic depression), had recently broken up with his girlfriend, and sometimes became uncontrollably depressed. The police requested an emergency medical examination for him. He gave them permission to search his vehicle, where they found a machete, but he denied them permission to search his house. His ex-girlfriend said he had abused her emotionally and physically, had once pointed a gun at her, and had also threatened to kill both of them. Police records showed that officers had responded to a dispute at his home, and he had grabbed several bottles of prescription medication. At that time, a rifle "was voluntarily handed over" (it is not clear by whom) to the officers for safekeeping and subsequently returned.

North Branford

The police arrested the subject for driving while intoxicated. During the booking process, he repeatedly spoke of his large gun cache and threatened to kill some neighbors, coworkers, and himself when he was released. Officers interviewed his wife, who confirmed that he owned guns. She said that he was depressed because he was in danger of losing his job of 23 years from which he had recently been suspended for striking a coworker. He had been drinking heavily and making threats, and she had become increasingly concerned for her safety because of his temper and depression. A psychiatrist who evaluated him told the police that she believed he was a threat to himself and others and should not have guns.

Norwich

An employer contacted the police about a workplace disturbance by a former employee terminated for disciplinary reasons. Shortly before he was advised of termination, he had allegedly made comments to the effect that he had access to guns and would "take care of the problem." The police interviewed the employee who had overheard the remark, and he confirmed the threat. Their investigation revealed that the subject (1) had charges pending against him for disorderly conduct and (2) did not have a gun permit or hunting license.

Rocky Hill

Case 1. The subject allegedly threatened on three occasions to kill his wife if she divorced him. She said that he had physically abused her several times. When the divorce became final, she told the police that given his propensity to domestic violence, she was afraid of him. She asked them to seize his guns.

Case 2. In a telephone call to a town office, the subject allegedly threatened to kill several employees, including a police officer that he blamed for ruining his life. Police investigation revealed that he had a history of threatening behavior.

Seymour

The subject allegedly threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend. At the time, he was on probation for harassing and threatening her. Her employer called the police after he made several harassing calls to her at her workplace. She accused the subject of being physically abusive in the past and recounted an incident in which he took her to a reservoir and threatened to drown her and another in which he chased her and a friend in a car causing an accident. Police investigation revealed that (1) he had called the complainant's workplace on numerous occasions to threaten her and had left numerous threatening messages on her telephone and (2) he had a long history of violence against her and people associated with her.

Stamford

The subject allegedly threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend. She told the police that he had assaulted her in the past and she had seen him with guns. Police investigation revealed that he had been arrested several times for violence.

Torrington

The subject allegedly told his doctor that he wanted to kill his ex-wife and that he had just bought a gun. He also said he had a house full of guns, including assault weapons. Police investigation revealed that in 1998, he had locked his then estranged wife in a room and held her at gunpoint for about 45 minutes.

West Hartford

Case 1. The subject contacted the police about a road rage reaction to a traffic incident. Police interviewed him; his social worker; and the other party involved in the incident. During his interview, the subject, a Korean veteran on medication for posttraumatic stress disorder, started having flashbacks about Korea and yelling about incoming mortar fire. He said he did not know what triggered his flashbacks. The social worker told the police that he was paranoid, was on medication for emotional and mental problems, and had many guns on his property. When one officer informed him that he was going to take his guns out of concern for the flashbacks, he told the officer that he should just put a bullet in his head. He then put a finger to his forehead and acted like he was pulling a trigger.

Case 2. The subject's brother contacted the police stating that the subject was despondent and had guns in the house. The police went to the subject's house and found him drunk, the house in disarray, and one gun on the floor. He admitted emotional distress because of his mother's serious illness.

Case 3. A licensed therapist contacted the police about a patient she believed was a threat to herself and others. The patient had told her that she had a loaded gun with her all weekend and had thought of killing herself and her partner.

Wolcott

The subject's mother told the police that her son appeared suicidal. Among other things, he had told a friend he wanted to kill himself, and she had found a bullet in his closet. She said she believed he had a gun and access to others. He had previously been medicated for expressing suicidal tendencies and had been placed in a psychiatric facility after two 1998 incidents. After one incident, a handgun was removed from the house.

The police issued an emergency committal order for the subject. They also applied for a warrant, which the judge denied for lack of probable cause. The intended subject of the warrant subsequently committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

State Police

Case 1. The subject, a deputy sheriff, allegedly pursued a black couple for several miles on a Connecticut highway, directed racial slurs at them, rammed their vehicle, and fired several shots at them. Both Rhode Island and Connecticut State Police investigated. Rhode Island police charged the subject with assault with a deadly weapon, carrying a weapon while intoxicated, driving while intoxicated, and having a weapon without a permit.

Connecticut State Police executed a warrant and seized several guns, which the court directed them to return because they had not exhausted the law's reasonable alternative standards, the most obvious of which is the consensual search. It noted that this alternative may not always be available, but the statute is clear that the application for a warrant must contain a factual representation sufficient for the court to support a finding that "no reasonable alternative" is available before a warrant may be considered by a judge (State of Connecticut vs. David Avery, Superior Court, Geographical Area 11, November 30 1999, Memorandum of Decision).

Case 2. The subject allegedly threatened to “blow his head off” because he was depressed over his wife's death. The police visited his house and saw several guns lying around. They spoke to his son; the visiting nurse, who reported the threat; and the subject, who confirmed it during a telephone conversation. They committed him to a hospital for an emergency evaluation. The doctor expressed concern about the guns in his house.

Case 3. The subject's sister applied for a restraining order against her brother, who allegedly threatened to kill her and himself. He apparently blamed her for his problems with alcohol and for mismanaging their mother's finances. Police investigation revealed that he had a history of alcohol abuse and had threatened suicide in the past.

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