The full version of this story was originally published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.
Sheriff Nick Finch let a pistol-packing man out of the Liberty County, Florida, jail, a decision that led state authorities to charge Finch with a crime — but also made him a hero to a radical and growing movement among sheriffs across the country.
It’s a movement that doesn’t just reject gun control — it encourages law enforcement officers to defy laws they decide are illegal. And it sometimes puts police on the same side as “sovereign citizens,” a fringe group that the FBI considers one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats.
On March 8, 2013, one of Sheriff Finch’s deputies pulled over a driver and found a loaded pistol in his pocket, according to the deputy’s sworn statement. Carrying a concealed firearm without a license is a felony in Florida, so the deputy arrested the driver.
Finch, however, ordered the driver released, and someone whited out his booking record. Finch later said he decided that “I know what law rules the day, and it’s the U.S. Constitution.”