Use of New 'Red Flag' Law Varies By County - NBC 6 South Florida
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Use of New 'Red Flag' Law Varies By County

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    Use of Red Flag Law Varies by County

    Florida’s new "red flag" law has been used more than 1,000 times statewide, but the NBC 6 Investigators found some counties are using it more than others.

    (Published Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019)

    One of the biggest changes in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been the new "red flag" law, which allows guns to be taken from people considered dangerous after law enforcement applies for what's called a risk protection order.

    In most cases in the past, revoking someone's gun rights required a felony conviction or commitment by a judge to a mental health facility.

    That changed in March, and now the new law has been used more than 1,000 times statewide, nowhere more frequently than in Broward, where the massacre was the impetus for change.

    But agencies in the adjacent and more populous Miami-Dade County used it only 63 times through November, according to state court records.

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    Broward and much smaller Polk County used it three times as often during that time, the NBC 6 Investigators found.

    The head of Miami-Dade police's threat management section says the numbers only tell part of the story.

    "The Miami-Dade Police Department has implemented new mechanisms that never existed before," said Lt. Patrick Calvo.

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    "I can't answer to what's going on in the other counties, but I can tell you in Miami-Dade, we take this very seriously and we put a lot of thought into it before acting on this," Calvo added. "There's a lot of research collected, a lot of investigating done in the background before we actually present these cases to our police legal bureau and then, as long as they agree, we present it to the judge."

    Thirteen people in the section review every mental health call in the county – more than 8,000 a year –and search reports for keywords, such as "firearms" and "suicide" and decide which individuals to follow up with.

    "We are cautiously and very respectfully implementing the law," Calvo said.

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    One of the success stories, he says, is the case of Devandra Ramesh Persaud, 29.

    In posts he's made on social media, he can be seen holding two AK-47-style rifles and bragging about how he was never convicted of a felony.

    Court records show he's been taken to a mental health facility, found to be suicidal and suffers from mental illness. He was convicted of using a firearm under the influence, a misdemeanor.

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    But he's never been convicted of a felony, so he maintained the right to possess his weapons: two assault rifles, two handguns, ammunition and enough clips to hold 420 rounds.

    "He threatened me in the house all the time with the gun," Deokalli Persaud, his mother, told the NBC 6 Investigators. But, she said, there was nothing she could do about the guns – until the red flag law went into effect in March.

    His reaction one year ago – when another young man who liked his guns killed 17 people: "He said the boy was doing good," his mother recalled. "He thought that was good, the boy did a good job."

    In April, police were called to the house after Persaud began shooting a gun inside and outside the house.

    "I had to go down on my knees on the ground and beg for my life and fight for that gun," his mother said.

    Miami-Dade Police quickly obtained a risk protection order that led to the confiscation of the weapons and ammunition.

    Persaud, who did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment, is now in a mental health program, getting monthly visits from Miami-Dade police.

    "We don't just obtain the risk protection order and walk away," Calvo said, calling Persaud "actually one of our success stories."

    While he's forbidden by an injunction from returning home, his mother worries, as she points out where the remnants of his last episode are being patched up: bullet holes in his bedroom, doors, tile, baseboards.

    She said she's grateful for the new law.

    "I think that was good. My life was safe in the house when they take away his guns."

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