Taxi driver who was robbed loses gun license after reporting crime
Published: September 4, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Anthony Fleming said he feels like he has been doubly victimized by a May robbery that cost him not only his firearm but his right to carry one in the Virgin Islands.
"My main thing is, I'm being penalized for getting robbed," Fleming said.
Fleming, a taxi driver and firefighter, was robbed at gunpoint just after midnight one night in May while walking from a part-time job back to his taxi in the area of the Bergs Home housing community. The suspects, who since have been arrested, took two cell phones, some cash and Fleming's black Taurus .40-caliber pistol, according to court records.
Fleming said the responding officer told him to contact the V.I. Police Department's Firearms Bureau about the missing gun, which the officer said was not recovered when the suspects were arrested. As a matter of policy, Fleming was required to appear at a hearing about the matter on June 6 at the Alexander Farrelly Criminal Justice Center.
Fleming said he explained his story to a panel that was supposed to - but in this case did not - include Police Commissioner Henry White Jr. The commissioner is the only person with the authority to revoke firearms licenses in the territory, according to the V.I. Code.
Fleming said that he quickly was told at the hearing that he had violated the terms of his firearm license by having the weapon on him after midnight and while not driving his taxi.
Fleming's firearms license contains the following conditions: "For home protection. To carry for personal protection while taxiing (6AM-12MN)."
It also contains a stamped warning that violating the conditions is grounds for revocation.
Fleming said he argued his point - that he was never given a choice regarding the hours on his license and that taxiing is a 24-hour service - without success.
"This would mean if I taxi between midnight and 6 a.m., I would have no protection," Fleming said.
The V.I. Code does state firearms licenses should include "places where, times when, and circumstances under which the firearm may be carried."
According to the Firearms Bureau's website, firearms licenses in the territory are good for three years and come in five varieties: for law enforcement officers for off-duty and personal protection only; for business and/or personal protection; for target shooting, sports use and home protection; for home protection only; and for farming, which can also be used for boat and home protection.
Fleming's license was in the second category.
No determination was made regarding the license at the hearing, according to Fleming. He said he was told he would be contacted in a few weeks regarding the outcome.
When that did not happen, Fleming called the Firearms Bureau and was told his firearm license was suspended for two years.
"I was in disbelief," Fleming said. "I was never contacted or given anything in writing stating the decision on the matter."
After further conversations with the Firearms Bureau, Fleming said he was instructed to write a letter to the Police commissioner to appeal the decision. He did so on July 12.
"In my opinion, I believe that I am being issued a penalty that is too harsh for the charge," Fleming wrote. "Sir, I am humbly asking you to review this matter by hearing my plea and reconsidering this judgment."
White had not responded as of Aug. 30, according to Fleming. White also did not return calls to the Daily News seeking comment last week, and attempts to reach the Firearms Bureau were unsuccessful.
"Nothing, I haven't heard nothing," Fleming said. "I'm a small potato compared to him."
Fleming said he is now in a catch-22 situation, fearing the consequences of not carrying a gun if, for instance, the men who robbed him want to retaliate and fearing prosecution if he gets caught carrying a gun without a license, a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence in the territory of 15 years.
He said he hopes by making his case public others who have had similar experiences with the Firearms Bureau will come forward and create pressure for change in the unit.
"I am sure there are others out there with the same kind of situation as me," Fleming said.
- Contact Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.