Gun In Station Costly to Florida Firefighters

Today’s Burning Question: I was at work in the fire station and a guy walked in and gave us handgun that he said he found on the street. He said he called the police, but they never showed up, and he couldn’t wait any longer. I waited for a while but when the police never showed, I put the gun in my car. Do you think it’s OK if I keep it?

Answer:  Definitely not!!!

Two Largo, Florida firefighters have lost their jobs and a third was suspended after they failed to properly handle a handgun turned in at Station 40 on June 10, 2013.

Firefighters Lewis Bradford and Michael Ledford opted to resign rather than face discipline over the incident. Firefighter Brad Lonkey was suspended for 24 hours without pay.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, an unknown person took a loaded handgun to the fire station when the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office did not respond to take possession. The gun was given to FF Bradford.

Bradford claims he put the gun in his personal vehicle because it was against department rules to have a weapon in the station, and then somehow forgot about it. FF Lonkey had a different version of events for investigators and in the end the story unraveled.

Quoting from the investigation report  "They touched the gun, took it apart, discussed who would keep it… . [FF Lonkey] stated he later asked if (Bradford) was going to turn it in. … Lonkey stated both (Bradford and Ledford) told him no one would ever find out, just keep his mouth shut. He stated he told them he could not keep their secret and they forced him to keep quiet. He stated that peer pressure kept him from reporting the incident at the time it occurred. He stated he could not eat or sleep and needed to do the right thing. He told (the investigator) he did not want anyone to lose their job."

Bradford ended up reporting the incident the following day, and Lonkey reported it the following day. The weapon eventually was turned over to police, who concluded it had not been used in a crime. No criminal offenses are being contemplated against the trio.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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