On Thursday 20 June 2019, Courtney Irby left a divorce court where she was trying to separate from husband Joseph Irby: he then allegedly tried to run her off the road with his car hitting hers, terrifying her (he’s in custody for it). Fearing for her life, she reported the incident to the police. The next day, still in fear (and apparently having no domestic abuse support from the authorities), she entered her estranged husband’s flat while he was in custody, and took his guns in order to protect her life and presumably their child’s life.
While trying to hand the guns into Lakeland police, she was asked to say taking the guns to turn in was a crime by a police officer – and now she’s in jail.
In this mind-boggling case of an understandably distraught woman in fear for her life, Lakeland PD have denied her her rights, failed to help her, and need to immediately release her, drop all charges, seize the guns, and offer her support as a victim of assault and domestic abuse.
According to various news sources, when she phoned to explain about the guns, an officer asked her: “So, you are telling me you committed an armed burglary?”
This questioning wholly disregarded basic procedure, and denied Mrs Irby her Miranda rights. If she were asked to confess to a crime – which there quite probably was no crime (in Florida, a couple have rights to each other’s property until divorced) – she needed to be read her rights, told she could remain silent, cautioned that anything she said could be used against her, and told she could have an attorney present. The officer in question was way out of order.
This is not the first time Lakeland PD have shown themselves to operate outside of the law and with utter contempt for women and rights. A sex scandal in 2013 saw the force accused of forcing women to have sex. It’s time the department was fully overhauled, and it’s time Mrs Irby is released and exonerated.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani said this case illustrates the need to better support domestic violence survivors.
“The case of Courtney Taylor Irby demonstrates once more the dangerous linkage between intimate partner violence and access to firearms. Court records show that Irby applied for a temporary injunction against her husband and the two were in the process of a divorce. She was actively protecting herself and her family from an estranged husband who had not turned over his firearms to law enforcement, and was arrested for it. We should be outraged by her arrest, and Irby should not be prosecuted by the local State Attorney’s office,”
- Please contact Lakeland Chief of Police through one of the channels listed below and give him the following message, personalized to your liking:
I am absolutely outraged to learn your officer arrested a victim of domestic assault: a woman you failed to protect from an abusive spouse, and a woman whose Miranda rights were completely disregarded. I demand you release her immediately, drop any charges against her, seize her husband’s guns, and offer her a professional domestic abuse counselling service – today.
It is bad enough that Joseph Irby reportedly used his car in an assault on his wife Courtney: can you imagine how terrifying, intimidating and shaking such an event is? Please do tell me what your force did to help her in the aftermath. I understand she came to you for help before: please tell me what you did to protect and serve her.
When she entered her husband’s property and removed guns, no doubt fearing for her life and that of the couple’s child, she was likely acting legally under Florida law: the couple are not yet divorced, and she may well have been legally entitled to enter the premises and take property. That she took property in order to turn it over to Lakeland Police who were failing to protect her safety clearly is in her favour should the state cruelly go forward with any legal action – but here’s why you can’t:
What happened next is unacceptable. Your officer apparently said to her: “So, you are telling me you committed an armed burglary?” – wholly disregarding procedure, and denying her her Miranda rights. If she were asked to confess to a crime, she had an unassailable legal right to be read her rights, told she could remain silent, cautioned that anything she said could be used against her, and told she could have an attorney present. Your officer has some serious explaining to do. Even if she had been read her rights – the confession of a person who is under duress (which you would be if someone tried to injure you with a car), is inadmissible. Don’t your officers know any better?
I want to hear from you within the next three days maximum to be told you have done as I asked: 1. immediately released Mrs Irby; 2. dropped all charges against her; 3. retained the guns she rightfully feared would be used against her; 4. offered her professional domestic abuse counselling; 5. will re-train or release any officers who do not know what Miranda rights are, who will not give a domestic abuse victim appropriate care and consideration; and 6. will undertake training of your staff so they can operate like a professional organisation recognizing abuse victims and protect – not criminalize them.
I will be watching what you do next, and will not hesitate to demand elected authorities take action if you fail to uphold the law.
Lakeland Police Department, Ruben Garcia – Chief
Phone: (863) 834 6907
Email: mailto: Carol.Ratcliff@Lakelandgov.net (for some reason this name comes up under the email link on the Lakeland PD site for the Chief – I will look for his personal Email, which may well just be Ruben.Garcia@Lakelandgov.net)
Twitter for assistant chief of police : https://twitter.com/drmikereik
2. After you take the action above, if you feel like copying the message you sent to supportive State Rep. Anna Eskamani, and/or the Governor, here’s the contact information:
State Rep. Anna Eskamani
Phone: (407) 228-1451
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaForFlorida/ – she’s just done a media call to ask for Mrs Irby’s release
Governor Ron Desantis
Phone (850) 717-9337
Email (form): https://www.flgov.com/email-the-governor/
After you contact Lakeland Police Chief Garcia, click the orange banner at the top of this page to report your action!