Jacksonville firearms instructor believes citizen’s arrests should be avoided if possible

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The topic of citizen’s arrests has become a hot topic in the past week after the arrests of two men in the deadly shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

The father and son Travis and Greg McMichael claim they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest on Arbery when he was shot and killed.

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Tom Verri, a firearms instructor in Jacksonville who is also a former police officer from New York, told News4Jax that he teaches his students to avoid conflict and that instead of pulling out a gun, to call police if they believe they’re witnessing a crime. He tells his students to avoid a citizen’s arrest, if possible.

“You have to be very careful because citizens arrests are a very complex thing and can lead you to a lawsuit,” Verri said. “If you insert yourself in a situation and you arrest a person or detain a person unlawfully, you can be sued, and you’re responsible for everyone else involved in that situation if it goes wrong.”

Verri pointed out that the McMichaels are were accusing Arbery of a property crime -- burglary. He said it would be smarter to call police, and he said armed citizens who fire a weapon at someone will have to explain their actions to police no matter what.

"When it’s a case of active shooter, robbery in progress, that type of thing -- different story, Verri said. “That’s an immediate threat. Immediate danger of loss of life.”

Verri added that another difficult thing in citizen’s arrests is probable cause. He said most regular citizens who are not police are not trained to understand probable cause and when they would have the right to arrest someone.

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