The man who caught a police officer on camera removing his pro-Second Amendment sign from his front yard says his “First Amendment rights are being stifled” — and he takes his constitutional rights very seriously.
Jon Gibson, of Lake Lincolndale, N.Y., told TheBlaze in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that he has retained an attorney and they are “considering our options moving forward.” His attorney, Richard Bombardo, said there is a potential case for “criminal trespassing, vandalism and larceny,” pending additional findings.
As TheBlaze reported on Monday night, Gibson was fed-up after his pro-gun sign was removed from his front yard for the third time. In response, he set up a hunting “trail camera” to catch the suspected thief when he or she came to take the sign for the fourth time.
He was shocked when he reviewed the images and discovered that a police officer with the Somers Police Department was responsible. Somers, N.Y., is a town located about 5 miles from Gibson’s home. However, the Somers police and fire departments serve his area.
“My First Amendment rights are being stifled — and my due process by taking my sign without citing me first,” Gibson told TheBlaze. “I never received a formal citation, and that’s my gripe.”
“The police officer has no right to take my property, to destroy my property without giving me a receipt or citing me,” he added.
TheBlaze has reached out to both the Somers Police Department and the building inspector for more information, including whether or not a formal citation was ever filed. Assistant Building Inspector Tom Tooma told TheBlaze he would look into the situation and get back to us, but multiple messages left with the police department have gone unreturned.
Following a complaint from a neighbor, Gibson said he previously received a letter from the town building inspector warning him that he was in violation of town code. However, after a back-and-forth on his First Amendment rights he was apparently told he could leave the sign up for now.
Gibson maintains he never received any formal citation regarding his sign.
Gibson also told TheBlaze he is working with his attorney to determine whether the town can claim any rights to his property because the sign was located about 4 or 5 feet from the edge of the roadway. It should also be noted that it hasn’t been confirmed that the police removed the sign all four times.
“The issue here, is we have a private individual with private land putting up a First Amendment-covered sign on a Second Amendment issue, which is a hot issue here in New York,” Bombardo, Gibson’s attorney, told TheBlaze.
The attorney said if it is determined that the town technically owns the part of the land where the sign was posted, they were within their rights to remove it. However, if the sign was located on Gibson’s private property, which they believe to be the case, then ripping out the sign without issuing a formal citation is a “really big deal.”
“Even if he was in violation of a valid restriction on the placement of the sign, they would have to give him notice,” Bombardo added. “It would be criminal trespassing, vandalism and larceny. The sign was stolen and you can’t do that. It doesn’t matter if it’s a police officer.”
Further, Bombardo argues this is a “singled-out issue.” He said there are other signs in the area that have gone “untouched.”
“If we have individual targeting because they don’t like the message, that’s problematic for the government as well,” the attorney added.
The sign has now become a symbol of free speech for Gibson, who says he first put the sign up to support the repeal of New York’s so-called SAFE Act, a broad gun control package passed after the tragic Sandy Hook shooting.
“I made a donation to SCOPE NY and they provided a repeal the SAFE Act sign. But when I realized someone was intentionally stealing my sign, it became about more than the Second Amendment,” he said.
Gibson at first intended to press criminal charges against the “thief,” but after learning the police are involved, he is now considering all of his legal options. Needless to say, the case has gotten a lot more complicated than he anticipated.