A Florida lawmaker is warning a state attorney Monday that it would set a “scary precedent” if he prosecutes a woman who recently was arrested after taking firearms from her estranged husband’s home to turn in to police.
The comments from State Rep. Anna Eskamani come after Courtney Irby was released from custody late last week. Irby, 32, was arrested on June 15 after showing up to the Lakeland Police Department with guns belonging to her husband, Joseph Irby, just one day after he was detained on a domestic battery charge for allegedly trying to run her over. She now faces charges of armed burglary and grand theft.
“Ms. Irby was seeking help from the Lakeland Police Department and taking action to protect herself and her children,” Eskamani, a Democrat, said in the letter to Polk County State Attorney Brian Haas. “We should be outraged by her arrest, and I am requesting that your office not prosecute her."
The lawmaker said public officials should be creating an environment where victims of abuse can ask for help.
"Prosecuting Ms. Irby sets a scary precedent that if someone seeks help to escape abuse, they will be punished for it,” she said.
Joseph Irby was arrested on June 14 following a divorce hearing with estranged wife Courtney Irby. (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)
According to police, Irby admitted to entering her husband’s apartment without permission and taking the guns over fears he “wasn’t going to turn them in” himself.
“I did not even know where the guns were located. I had to search around the apartment for them, so I could bring them to you,” she told police, according to Fox 13.
But the officer that spoke to Irby reportedly responded: “So, are you telling me you committed an armed burglary?”
Police then contacted Irby’s husband, who was being held at the Polk County Jail for the previous day’s incident, and he informed officers that he wanted to file charges against his wife, according to WKMG.
An arrest affidavit revealed the couple had finished a divorce hearing on June 14 when they got into an argument. While trying to leave the courthouse, Irby’s vehicle was allegedly rear-ended by her husband, who was attempting to run her off the road while she was on the phone with police.
Irby’s arrest has sparked a public outcry – and Eskamani hasn’t been the only one to speak out.
“Courtney Irby's arrest is a disgrace,” tweeted Andrew Warren, a State Attorney in nearby Hillsborough County. “In @HillsboroughFL, we disarm domestic abusers who have legally forfeited their right to having a gun, and we always stand with survivors–not arrest them.”
Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia, in an interview with WFLA, said his department has to “safeguard every citizen's rights.
“When a case is brought to us, we have to look at all sides of the cases and come to the fairest conclusion we can for everyone involved,” he said.
Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.