Gun owners fear Maryland police target them for traffic stops

Police have been on the lookout for those bearing arms along the busy Interstate 95 corridor between Florida and Maine. Especially zealous police officers have stopped several motorists in Maryland. (Associated Press)

A year ago this New Year’s Eve, John Filippidis of Florida was driving south with his family on Interstate 95 when the Maryland Transportation Authority Police pulled over his black Ford Expedition and proceeded to raid it while his twins, wife and daughter looked on — separated in the back seats of different police cruisers.

The officers were searching for Mr. Filippidis‘ Florida-licensed, palm-size Kel-Tec .38 semi-automatic handgun, which he left at home locked in his safe. (Maryland does not recognize handgun permits issued by other states.)

When the search turned up nothing, Mr. Filippidis, 51, was allowed to go and was issued only a speeding warning.

The incident gained national attention. Mr. Filippidis went on multiple radio programs and described in detail how scared and outraged he and his family were. He wondered: How did the police know he was licensed for concealed carry, and what right did they have to search through his personal items on the side of the busy interstate filled with holiday travelers on that 10-degree day?

“My wife’s hysterical, shaking and crying,” Mr. Filippidis recalled in an interview with The Washington Times. “I don’t have a criminal record. I own a business. I’m a family man, and I tried to explain that to [the officer]. But he had a bad attitude, didn’t want to hear my story. He just wanted to find that gun and take me away from my family. That was his goal, but he couldn’t do it, because I didn’t have a gun, like I told him.”

Mr. Filippidis‘ case earned the support of Second Amendment advocates and subsequent apologies from the MDTA. But an internal police review concluded his stop and search were lawful and did not violate police protocols.

Those findings, however, have not satisfied other out-of-state gun owners, who worry that they, too, have been targeted for minor traffic stops in Maryland because they have concealed weapons permits. Their stories are accumulating.

John Tonnesen IV of Lake Worth, Florida, was pulled over and arrested after a search of his work truck — by the same officer who stopped Mr. Filippidis — turned up his .45-caliber Ruger, licensed in the state of Florida. He doesn’t believe the stop was coincidental.

“It was unloaded and stuffed into a bag far from me,” Mr. Tonnesen told The Times. “There’s scanners in Maryland that scan every tag, and Florida is one of their target vehicles. They’ll find whatever reason they can to pull you over.”

MDTA denies it targets out-of-state gun owners and noted the review of Mr. Fillipides earlier traffic stop concluded the officers did nothing wrong.

“The MDTA Police conducted a review of the traffic stop and have concluded that the stop and subsequent search of the vehicle were justified,” spokesman Jonathan Green wrote in an emailed statement. “The investigation did not reveal any violations of law or agency policy.”

The officer who stopped both gun owners is “assigned to the I-95 corridor where there is a large volume of out of state travelers,” Mr. Green said.

Gun owners fear Maryland police target them for traffic stops – Washington Times.

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