Court Security

'Pistol' in Fla. Courthouse Results in Evacuation--More than 3 Hours Later


Fortunately, it wasn’t a real gun. But a series of security lapses ensued after a Florida woman forgot about the pistol-shaped cigarette lighter she had confiscated from her nephew, out of concern about how realistic it appeared, and left in a bag she put through the security check at the Tampa courthouse yesterday.

And that isn’t confidence-inspiring about what might have happened if it had been, according to a St. Petersburg Times article about the incident.

At 8:45 a.m., as the cigarette lighter went through the X-ray machine, the security guard was writing down a phone number for an auto parts store. He apparently caught just a glimpse of the seeming pistol as the image was moving off the screen and, at 8:50 a.m., notified his supervisor, the newspaper reports.

However, it wasn’t until more than two hours later that the security chief in charge was informed and called for the sheriff’s department, court administrators and bailiffs to be notified of the breach, the newspaper recounts. The sheriff’s department, which has sole authority to do so, then evacuated the building at noon.

Meanwhile, the guard and supervisors had checked and rechecked the images in the X-ray machine’s memory and searched to try to find the person who had brought in the bag containing the seeming pistol as visitors continued to stream into the Hillsborough County facility.

An investigation is ongoing. Security chief Scott Dunlap said at a news conference today that yesterday’s incident was the first time in 11 years that an apparent gun has made it all the way into the courthouse.

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