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Florida sheriff encourages residents to shoot looters if they try to break into homes

Tuesday sees more peaceful protests
Tuesday sees more peaceful protests 03:28

A Florida sheriff is gaining national attention for his strong words about using gun violence against potential looters. During a press conference on Monday, Polk County Sheriff Judd Grady praised peaceful protesters – then, he addressed anyone who may threaten criminal conduct during demonstrations.

Grady said the department "had received information on social media that some folks were threatening to take their criminal conduct into the neighborhoods."

"I would tell them, if you value your life, they probably shouldn't do that in Polk County," Grady said. "Because the people of Polk County like guns, they have guns, I encourage them to own guns, and they're going to be in their homes tonight with their guns loaded, and if you try to break into their homes to steal, to set fires, I'm highly recommending they blow you back out of the house with their guns. So, leave the community alone."

Grady doubled down on this message by posting a transcript of his remarks on Facebook.

My heart is full with gratitude for our community today. Monday night we had zero incidents of protest-related violence. There were three protests in Polk County—all were peaceful—there was no sign of outside agitators. Yesterday, Chief Ruben Garcia and I, along with Reverend Arthur Johnson and community leader Don Brown spoke to the media about our community-wide commitment to peaceful assembly in Polk County. During the news conference I reminded everyone: “Let there be no misunderstanding, at all, that if you come here to riot, to loot, to injure people, we’re going to lock you up in the county jail before quick.” I also said: “The message is clear, if you come here to peaceably assemble and protest, we’re gonna make sure we protect your constitutional right to do that and we encourage it. But for those who want to come in, stealthily, among those wonderful people who are simply making their position known, the ones that tried to infiltrate, we are going to hunt you down and lock you up if you engage in any criminal conduct." And, I told those at the meeting that we had received information on social media that some folks were threatening to take their criminal conduct into the neighborhoods. That’s not a good idea in Polk County: “I would tell them, if you value your life, they probably shouldn’t do that in Polk County. Because the people of Polk County like guns, they have guns, I encourage them to own guns, and they’re going to be in their homes tonight with their guns loaded, and if you try to break into their homes to steal, to set fires, I’m highly recommending they blow you back out of the house with their guns. So, leave the community alone.” My thanks go out to those who helped organize the peaceful protests in Polk County. This is a great, safe, peace-loving community. I am also thankful for our great Lakeland Police Department and other law enforcement partners for their professional work, and our own men and women who were out in force Sunday and Monday nights, keeping our community safe. As always, if you need us we are here. God bless, Grady

Posted by Polk County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, June 2, 2020

"During the news conference I reminded everyone: 'Let there be no misunderstanding, at all, that if you come here to riot, to loot, to injure people, we're going to lock you up in the county jail before quick,'" he wrote. Grady also said that law enforcement will protect the constitutional right to peacefully protest. 

However, "those who want to come in, stealthily, among those wonderful people who are simply making their position known, the ones that tried to infiltrate, we are going to hunt you down and lock you up if you engage in any criminal conduct," he said.

Chief Ruben Garcia, Reverend Arthur Johnson and community leader Don Brown also spoke at the press conference. While some viewers praised what Grady said, others thought his words incited unnecessary violence. Others argued that stealing should not be punishable by death – and civilians should not be encouraged to shoot each other, but rather call law enforcement if a crime is committed. 

The sheriff's words were reminiscent of what President Trump tweeted last week. "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen," Mr. Trump wrote. "Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"

Many condemned the use of the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" – including Twitter, which quickly tagged the post.

"This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain accessible," Twitter's message read. 

While peaceful protests against police brutality and racial injustice have continued in several U.S. cities for more than a week, some demonstrations have turned violent. In some cities, police have used rubber bullets and tear gas, and some people have set structures on fire and looted stores.

Grady said all three protests in Polk County remained peaceful and there were "zero incidents of protest-related violence." However, in an interview with Dana Loesch on Tuesday, Grady again doubled down on using violence against potential looters.

"If someone breaks into my home, I'm going to shoot them and I'm going to shoot them a lot," Grady said. The sheriff department's official Twitter page retweeted the interview segment.

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