Lakeland, FL – A woman was arrested after she broke into her estranged husband’s apartment and stole his guns to turn them in at the police department.
The bizarre series of events that led to Courtney Irby’s arrest began on June 14 after she and her husband Joseph Irby had a court hearing about their divorce, the Huffington Post reported.
An arrest affidavit said Joseph Irby followed his wife as she drove away from the courthouse and then repeatedly rammed the back of her car with his own.
"The defendant followed behind her in his vehicle and began ramming his vehicle's front bumper into the back of the victim's rear bumper. He then began screaming and yelling at her," the affidavit said.
Joseph Irby ultimately ran Courtney Irby off the road, and the affidavit said she called police “uncontrollably crying and advised that she was in fear for her life,” the Huffington Post reported.
Joseph Irby was arrested and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Courtney Irby testified via telephone at his hearing the next morning, the Huffington Post reported.
The judge granted her estranged husband pretrial release on the condition that he not own, possess, or carry firearms.
When the hearing was over, Courtney Irby went to Joseph Irby’s apartment and broke in.
She took a handgun and a rifle belonging to him and drove with them to the nearby Lakeland Police Department, WFLA reported.
The arrest affidavit for Courtney Irby said she went into the police station and told an officer that she had stolen her husband’s guns.
“So are you telling me that you committed an armed burglary?” the officer asked.
“Yes, I am, but he wasn’t going to turn them in, so I am doing it,” she told him.
The officers reached out to Joseph Irby, who was still at the Polk County Jail, and told him what had happened, The Ledger reported.
Joseph Irby told police that he wanted to press charges against his estranged wife for stealing his weapons.
Courtney Irby was arrested on the spot and charged with grand theft of a firearm and armed burglary, WFLA reported.
She spent five nights in jail before she was granted bond, the Huffington Post reported.
Courtney Irby’s attorney, Lawrence Shearer, said that his client’s action didn’t amount to theft under Florida law because she was taking the guns to transfer to them to the police where Joseph Irby could have retrieved them later.
“Theft is to deprive someone of the right or benefit of property,” Shearer told the Huffington Post. “She didn’t do either one of those. She was taking them to the police department for safekeeping.”
He said he had faith that the state’s attorney’s office would do the “right thing” and drop the charges against Courtney Irby.
Community outrage went viral as word of the domestic violence victim’s arrest spread, WFLA reported.
Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia defended his department’s handling of the situation despite the outcry.
"We have to safeguard every citizen's rights. 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," Chief Garcia said.
The chief said he was unaware of any incidents in the past when police had been called to the Irby home, WFLA reported.
But Courtney Irby claimed she had taken out several orders of protection against her husband in the past, including a temporary injunction she said she had at the time of her arrest.
There is a new law in Florida that allows police to seize guns from citizens who are considered threats to themselves or others, WFLA reported.
However, when someone accused of domestic violence is ordered not to own firearms, there is no mechanism to check if the person owns weapons or to confiscate them.