A look at whether Florida’s red flag law could have prevented deadly Publix shooting

Investigators say the gunman in the Royal Palm Beach Publix shooting posted on social media that he wanted to “kill people and children” before he did it.

The 55-year-old man murdered a 1-year-old boy and his grandmother and then killed himself.

But before he did that, the Palm Beach County sheriff said he did something else.

“There was a chance this could be stopped. You know why? The reason is he’s on Facebook,” Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said. “He has said, ‘I wanna kill people and children.’”

Had someone said something, the killer’s threat probably would’ve been enough to trigger Florida’s red flag law, which allows law enforcement to take guns away from someone who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

“You think a damn soul told us about that? No,” Bradshaw said. “And if it sounds like I’m angry, I am.”

It’s not unusual for law enforcement to ask a judge to take guns away from people.

From March of 2018 through April 2021, 174 final risk protection orders were granted between Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties.

In Southwest Florida, law enforcement also echoes the words of the Palm Beach County sheriff about what community members can do to help officers.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, I didn’t think it was too serious. They’re just keyboard warriors. They’re just venting online,’” said Cpl. Phil Millen with the Cape Coral Police Department. “We don’t want that venting to spill out into real life. So please, if you see something, say something and call us.”

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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