An hours-long standoff between a veteran of Afghanistan and police in New York ended peacefully early Sunday morning, but not before tens of thousands of individuals watched Alexander Booth livestream his side of the standoff from inside his home, calls to the local police inundated the local 911 system, and dozens of gun owners reportedly showed up in the area to side with the veteran.
In his livestream, Booth alleged that officers were at his home in response to a “red flag” firearms seizure order, though the Putnam County sheriff says officers were first called out to the residence in reference to a domestic violence investigation. In a statement posted to the Putnam County sheriff’s Facebook page, the department referenced the huge online response sparked by the investigation and Booth’s live stream of the standoff on Instagram.
The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office has been inundated with calls and social media messages from citizens expressing concern about a police response in the Town of Carmel. The incident was widely reported to be a law enforcement effort to seize firearms under “Red Flag” laws. This information is incorrect. The law enforcement response and subsequent arrest was related to a domestic violence investigation. The citizen involved is safe and in police custody.
The incredibly high volume of phone calls, emails and social media messages has overwhelmed our systems and shutdown our ability to communicate with our community. While we respect the right of all citizens to inquire about law enforcement activity, we urge you to respect the needs of our community and restore our ability to serve them. Thank you.
Many of the responses to the Facebook post continue to express doubt with the sheriff’s side of the story, with hashtags like #TheRedcoatsAreComing and #SupportWhiskeyWarrior556 (Booth’s Instagram handle) flooding the comments.
As we’ve seen with many breaking news stories, there was a lot of confusion about what was taking place on the ground in Mahopec, New York while the events were unfolding. Information relayed on police scanner traffic was being reported by many online as confirmed facts instead of the unconfirmed reports that they were, including the apparently false report about a shootout between law enforcement and citizens in a nearby cemetery.
So here’s what we actually know at the moment: Alexander Booth was taken into custody by police around 9:30 p.m. local time Saturday night, and according to the Carmel, New York police department, is facing charge relating to a previous incident, but isn’t currently facing any charges related to the standoff. It’s also important to note that, according to authorities, Booth isn’t facing any firearm-related charges, including possession of a 30-round magazine.
The Carmel Police Department said that Booth was subsequently arraigned on multiple charges related to incidents connected to a past domestic incident involving his wife. Booth was wanted on a felony warrant issued by Thomas Jacobellis charging him with second-degree burglary, a felony, and several misdemeanors, including criminal trespass, criminal contempt, aggravated harassment and petit larceny. Booth is not facing any charges in relation to the standoff. His arraignment was held at Carmel Town Justice Court.
We’ll likely learn more about the charges that Booth is facing in the near future, but for now that’s all we have to go on. Again, there’s no evidence that this was a situation involving New York’s “red flag” gun seizure law other than Booth’s statements during his livestream that he believed a co-worker had called police to report he had a 30-round magazine. During that livestream, Booth said police had already visited his home and seized his firearms before the standoff began.
Again, at this point we don’t know how much of that is true. Keep in mind, however, that in New York state, “red flag” laws aren’t even needed to seize someone’s firearms. A judge can revoke your license to own a firearm any time they want, and they don’t need a red flag request to do so. In fact, when firearms are seized under a red-flag order, the gun owner will at least get their belated day in court. When a judge determines that someone’s behavior is “incompatible with the ability to carry a firearm” and revokes their license, they could be waiting for months to get a hearing. One of the things that’s unknown at this time is whether or not a judge revoked Booth’s firearms licenses’ without a red flag firearms order.
The rapid response from the online community, as well as locals in the area, is a clear sign that gun owners and Second Amendment supporters are paying very close attention to potential abuses and infringements on the right to keep and bear arms. That’s good.
However, the response also reminds us that Second Amendment supporters aren’t immune to the same rush to judgement that we see from gun control activists anytime there’s breaking news about a shooting somewhere. It takes time to separate fact from fiction, but when you’re seeing live updates from a veteran who’s worried about police breaking down his door because of the state’s “red flag” law, it’s easy (and perhaps even human nature) to side with the guy who’s locked himself in his own home.
Until we know the whole story, however, we absolutely have to keep in mind that we’re relying on incomplete information and we don’t have all the facts. Our hearts may be in the right place, but if our heads are not, then we risk doing damage to the cause we’re trying to support.
We’ll keep digging into this case in hopes of finding out more information, but in the meantime, it’s important to stick to the facts, no matter how compelling some of the unverified information that’s out there might be.