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Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

Jackson: Still waiting for answers about unarmed motorist stopped in Maryland

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Published:   |   Updated: February 26, 2014 at 06:43 AM

More than a month ago, I promised to update the tale of the Filippidis family, the Hudson folks waylaid on Dec. 30 for the better part of two hours along southbound Interstate 95 in Maryland while transportation agency police officers searched their Ford Expedition for a handgun John Filippidis is licensed to carry in Florida (and 34 other states — Maryland not among them — that practice concealed-weapon reciprocity) but had left in a safe at home.

This is not that update.

Instead, it is the list of questions emailed to the Maryland Department of Transportation Authority Police at the invitation of its spokesman. Because the news was urgent and the tale both cautionary and important, the original column was published while the agency was investigating the incident and, accordingly, offered no comment. This, as noted by some of the hundreds who left comments, left disturbing loose ends only the MDTAP can tie up.

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Two weeks have passed since my submission was sent, long past when I'd liked to have put a frame on this saga, but so far MDTAP remains silent — although I'm told progress is being made.

Well. While we all practice the patience of choir masters, what follows is some of what we're waiting to find out.

Kally and John Filippidis say they were aware of an unmarked patrol car following, flanking, leading and then dropping back to follow them for quite some time before they were pulled over, perhaps as long as 10 minutes. Is that accurate?

If MDTAP agrees the Filippidises' sport utility vehicle was being tracked as described, what took the officer so long to pull it over? Some who have attached comments to my column online wonder whether MDTAP patrol cars have tag-scanning systems, and if so whether those systems are linked to databases that reveal such things as whether the owner has a concealed carry permit. Do they and can they?

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Have the officer's superiors concluded the stop had anything to do with the fact that the SUV bore a Florida license tag? If so, does the officer's record reveal an unusual tendency to stop out-of-state motorists in general and Florida motorists in particular? If so, do those motorists come from states that have a high issuance of concealed weapons permits?

Would the officer have been following his training?

John Filippidis says the officer told him he knew Filippidis had a concealed carry permit and was asked to account for the gun's whereabouts. Does this match the officer's account? If so, what prompted the question?

By statute, records regarding which Floridians have been issued permits are available in a searchable database to out-of-state law enforcement. Under what circumstances are MDTAP officers trained to search that database? Do routine traffic stops fall within the parameters of that training? Did the officer learn of Mr. Filippidis' permit by searching Florida's database? If not, how did he find out?

John Filippidis says the officer told him he had “probable cause” to search the SUV without a warrant because his story about the location of his gun (at home in a safe) did not match that of his wife and his son (they didn't know where it was but suggested it might be in the glove box or console). Does that also match the officer's account? Is that an accurate representation of the law under MDTAP training? Does the officer say he gained permission from Mr. Filippidis to search the SUV?

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Did the officer believe the Filippidises were a threat to public safety? If so, why? If not, why detain them for as long as he did?

Mr. Filippidis says the officer was aggressive and intimidating. He says the officer yelled at him, accused him of lying and gave every indication he was going to be arrested and jailed. Is there dashboard video to corroborate or refute Mr. Filippidis' claim? Can it be made available to me?

The Filippidises say they were stopped for at least 90 minutes and perhaps two hours. How long do MDTAP records show the stop lasted?

The Filippidises also say the officer summoned three marked patrol cars as backup and to conduct a thorough search of their SUV. Is that accurate? If not, how many marked patrol cars were summoned? How many patrolmen were involved in the search? Is this sort of thoroughness customary? Has MDTAP quantified the manpower hours involved in searching the Filippidises SUV? If so, what is the total? Does MDTAP say this was a prudent expenditure of limited resources?

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When it was all over, the officer who initiated the stop issued only a warning for speeding, 71 mph in a 55 mph zone. Is it customary to not ticket motorists exceeding the posted limit by nearly a third? Is there evidence to support the 71 mph claim?

John Filippidis says he received two calls from high-ranking MDTAP officers in early January, both captains, I believe, one from internal affairs. Is this accurate? If so, what was the nature of the phone calls?

Was there an investigation of how the officer carried out his duties before and during the stop? If so, what did that investigation reveal? Is there a copy of the report that can be made available to me?

Has the officer been sanctioned or disciplined? If so, describe the punishment. If not, why not?

Finally, are there inaccuracies in my column MDTAP would like to have corrected? If so, what are they? (Link provided.)

Thank you very much.

 

tjackson@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1851

Twitter: @tjacksonTBO

Blog: tbo.com/tomjackson/

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