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Florida Woman Arrested After Trying To Turn Her Abusive Husband's Guns In To Police—And People Are Furious

Florida Woman Arrested After Trying To Turn Her Abusive Husband's Guns In To Police—And People Are Furious
Lakeland Police Department

Statistics show women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner—husband, boyfriend, lover or ex—than by anyone else.

In one year, 15 times as many women were murdered by an intimate partner than by a stranger.

Women in abusive situations are advised to get help and get out. But what if getting help gets you arrested?

That's what happened to a woman in Lakeland, Florida who tried to get help from the police.

Courtney Taylor Irby was charged with two counts of grand theft of a firearm, one count of armed burglary and spent six days in jail. Her crime?

While her estranged husband was in jail for attempting to kill her, Irby went to his apartment and gathered all of his firearms. She took them to the Lakeland Police Department.

A court order related to his domestic violence charges stated Joseph Irby could not possess firearms. Knowing he would never voluntarily turn in his guns, Taylor, as she prefers to be called, turned them in while Joseph was in jail.

According to the affidavit, she told Lakeland Police Officer Brent Behrens:

"Well, he was arrested yesterday for trying to run me over with his car, and he is now in jail. So I went to his apartment since he is in jail and I searched his apartment for the guns I knew he had and I took them."

Behrens asked Taylor:

"So you are telling me you committed an armed burglary?"

According to Officer Behrens, Taylor responded:

"Yes I am, but he wasn't going to turn them in so I am doing it."

Taylor then told Behrens of the injunction and latest restraining order against Joseph Irby, explaining why she entered her estranged husbands home and was turning his firearms into the police per the court order. Behrens then arrested her for armed burglary and grand theft of firearms.

Her estranged husband was released from jail, where he spent 24 hours for trying to kill his wife, on the same day Taylor was placed in jail for turning in his weapons. Taylor would spend six days and five nights in jail for surrendering the firearms to police per her husband's court order.

The armed burglary charge against Taylor was not because she carried a weapon into her husband Joseph's apartment, but because she carried his guns on her way out. Taylor had walked into the apartment; she did not break in.

Now a legion of supporters are asking Polk County State Attorney Brian Haas not to use their discretion not to push the charges against Courtney Taylor Irby, including State Representative Anna Eskamani who faced backlash for her support of Taylor.

Florida State Representative Eskamani stated:

"She was literally asking for help. We know with so many survivors of domestic violence that asking for help is the biggest challenge. We just demonstrated that if you ask for help, you might be arrested."

In a letter to Haas, Representative Eskamani asked him to:

"...set a tone that survivors will be empowered — not incarcerated or fined — for seeking support from law enforcement to escape abuse."

Taylor's attorney, Lawrence Shearer argued in court documents Taylor Irby did not commit theft or burglary according to Florida law. In Florida, theft is "depriving another person a right to property or benefit from property."

Shearer said Taylor Irby did not do this since legally Joseph Irby was not supposed to have the weapons and Taylor did not take them for her own use.

Haley Burke, Taylor's sister, told Lklnd Now:

"My sister was hysterical. She knew that this [second restraining order and arrest] just poked the bear, and he would be coming after her. In the (hopes) of protecting herself and her children, she did the one thing that she thought would help save her life."
"She went to his apartment, gathered his arsenal of firearms and Kevlar and took them to the police station. She just knew that if the police had the guns, she would be safe for just a little while longer."

Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia backed officer Behrens, stating:

"...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."

People disagreed with the Lakeland Chief's definition of fairness.

In mid-July, both Irbys face arraignments in their criminal cases. The charges against Courtney Taylor Irby are felonies.

Navigating family court can be confusing and intimidating. The book Domestic Abuse, Child Custody, and Visitation: Winning in Family Court, available here, is designed to help experts to lay people find their way.