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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cops Confiscate Lakewood Lady’s Arsenal; Motive Pending (Updated)

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 12:00 PM

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Update: Last month we brought you the story of Francesca Rice, an Iraq war veteran in Lakewood whose stockpile of licensed firearms was seized by cops. So Rice, whose service left her disabled, pursued justice the American way: By suing their ass.

Since Scene first reported the story, Rice’s arsenal has been restocked and her legal action tabled.

The incident started in September 2010, when Lakewood Police were asked to check on Rice by the VA hospital, where she’d been receiving treatment. Thirteen weapons — including a machine gun and sniper rifle — were taken when cops suspected Rice’s disability prevented her from owning them under Ohio law.
Last week, with no further evidence from the VA that Rice couldn’t handle a gun, the police returned her weapons.

“On the advice of my attorney,” says Rice, “I have safely and legally stored my collection elsewhere.”

***

Francesca Rice no longer serves in her country’s armed forces, but she brought a piece of the action back home with her.

It seems the Lakewood vet had stockpiled her Edgewater Towers condo with a home arsenal including handguns, shotguns, a sniper rifle — plus a Thompson sub-machine gun, just in case the pizza guy got fresh.

Her cache somehow caught the attention of Lakewood Police, who paid a visit last September. When they found Rice wasn’t home, they asked an obliging employee of the complex to open up the apartment without her consent. Once inside, they raided the gun rack, making off with 13 firearms worth around $15,000. The only problem: They had no apparent reason to.

When Rice kindly asked to have her toys returned, the cops acknowledged that the weapons were legally owned. But they refused to return them without a court order. And so Rice has filed suit in Lakewood Municipal Court.

So far, nobody’s doing much talking. Lakewood Police Chief Timothy Malley declined to speak specifically about the seizure, citing the ongoing lawsuit. He also declined to speak generally about situations in which Lakewood cops would be likely to seize property on a whim. Rice’s attorney did not return Scene’s calls for comment, and Rice didn’t respond to repeated buzzes on her apartment intercom.

Amid all the zipped lips, there’s a moral here for everybody: Gun owners, beware of law enforcement looking to trod upon your rights. And non-gun owners, beware of neighbors who are particularly well prepared for the zombie apocalypse.

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