A Florida man was traveling South with his family on the way home from a wedding in New Jersey when the Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MTAP) began tailing his Ford Expedition. After about 10 minutes, the police pulled him over and told him they knew he owned a gun. They demanded he produce it for them on the spot — even though the firearm was locked away in a safe 1,000 miles away.
John Filippidis of Hudson, Fla., told The Tampa Tribune he wasn’t speeding or doing anything illegal when the cops took an interest in his car. In fact, he’d intentionally left his Kel-Tec .38 pistol locked up at home precisely because he understood the potential legal headaches that can arise when traveling through multiple State jurisdictions with a firearm.
“I know the laws and I know the rules,” he said. “But I just think it’s a better idea to leave it home.”
So when the Maryland police pulled him over, they took his license and registration back to the patrol cruiser, then returned to the car and ordered him to get out. Here’s the Tribune’s narrative:
Ten minutes later he’s back, and he wants John out of the Expedition. Retreating to the space between the SUV and the unmarked car, the officer orders John to hook his thumbs behind his back and spread his feet. “You own a gun,” the officer says. “Where is it?”
“At home in my safe,” John answers.
“Don’t move,” says the officer.
Now he’s at the passenger’s window. “Your husband owns a gun,” he says. “Where is it?”
First Kally [John’s wife] says, “I don’t know.” Retelling it later she says, “And that’s all I should have said.” Instead, attempting to be helpful, she added, “Maybe in the glove [box]. Maybe in the console. I’m scared of it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I might shoot right through my foot.”
The officer came back to John. “You’re a liar. You’re lying to me. Your family says you have it. Where is the gun? Tell me where it is and we can resolve this right now.”
Of course, John couldn’t show him what didn’t exist, but Kally’s failure to corroborate John’s account, the officer would tell them later, was the probable cause that allowed him to summon backup — three marked cars joined the lineup along the I-95 shoulder — and empty the Expedition of riders, luggage, Christmas gifts, laundry bags; to pat down Kally and [daughter] Yianni; to explore the engine compartment and probe inside door panels; and to separate and isolate the Filippidises in the back seats of the patrol cars.
Ninety minutes later, or maybe it was two hours — “It felt like forever,” Kally says — no weapon found and their possessions repacked, the episode ended … with the officer writing out a warning.
The incident left Filippidis angry and embarrassed, outraged that his children had to endure the unnecessary ordeal while watching the police treat their father like a criminal. And he has no idea how the Maryland Transportation Authority Police knew about his lawful firearm, obtained and maintained in the State of Florida.
MTAP wouldn’t comment to the Tribune, citing an internal investigation into the matter. The police captain who supervises the officer who made the stop has apologized to Filippidis, along with an MTAP Internal Affairs officer.
But Filippidis still doesn’t know why he was stopped, how any of them knew that he was a lawful gun owner in Florida or why it made any difference to the police once they had him in their sights.