Police say they initially arrested reporter Jeff Weinsier for trespassing when he stepped on the grass of a public school after they had repeatedly warned him against it.
But much to their delight, they discovered a loaded pistol in his waistband, prompting them to charge Weinsier with several felony counts instead of the expected misdemeanor trespassing charge.
Weinsier works for ABC’s local affiliate Channel 10, so naturally CBS’s local affiliate, Channel 4, is having a field day reporting on this story, making it seem as if Weinsier had stormed Miami Central High School with his loaded gun looking to pull another Columbine.
Although Miami Dade Public School police say they arrested him for stepping on the grass, there doesn’t appear to be any actual video footage of him on the grass.
This despite the fact that there were several TV news cameras at the scene reporting on a story about a Central High School teacher who attempted “suicide by cop” the previous day.
According to The Miami Herald:
Torrens (police spokesman) said he believed other TV station’s cameramen only filmed Weinsier being arrested on the sidewalk, but failed to show footage of him on stepping on the grass.
So perhaps he was standing on the grass as much as I was standing in the middle of the street during my arrest.
Besides, even if he did step on the grass, would it really be considered trespassing under Florida law?
According to Florida Statute 810.0975, which defines trespassing in “school safety zones”, a person is committing an unlawful act if he loiters in the school safety zone, but “does not have legitimate business in the school safety zone”.
The school safety zone is defined as 500 feet within a school grounds, which would mean all the reporters at the scene were trespassing, even if they weren’t packing heat.
That is, of course, if they were not at the school on “legitimate business”, which they obviously were as was Weinsier. Keeping the press from doing their legitimate business is a First Amendment violation which supersedes a measly state trespassing charge.
Weinsier’s real issues stem from that damn gun. Even if he had never stepped on the grass, the sidewalk still falls within the School Safety Zone (although one can argue there really isn’t much of a safety zone at Miami Central High School).
Florida law is very clear about where you are not allowed to carry your concealed weapon even if you have a license. Schools, federal buildings, hospitals, bars are off-limits if you are packing a gun, unless you are a law enforcement officer.
But if it is proven that police conducted an illegal search and seizure on Weinsier prior to finding the gun (Fourth Amendment violation), then perhaps prosecutors will have a tougher time making the felony gun charges against him stick.
Regardless of the outcome, this incident clearly began when police were trying to stifle the press — something that is happening with alarming regularity in recent years.
Check out unedited video of incident here206