OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Last week as Hurricane Idalia was bearing down on his state, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended his 2024 presidential campaign to take care of business while issuing a warning: Post-storm looting in the Sunshine State will not be tolerated.
The governor told reporters that “you do what you need to do” in situations like this and cited his prior work in dealing with Hurricane Ian, which struck Florida last September while he was running for governor of the state.
“I’d also just remind potential looters – you never know what you’re walking into,” DeSantis said during a press conference Wednesday.
“People have a right to defend their property. This part of Florida, you got a lot of advocates and proponents of the Second Amendment, and I’ve seen signs in different people’s yards in the past after these disasters, and I would say it’s probably here – ‘You loot, we shoot,’” he added.
Not everyone listened, however.
According to The Associated Press, “two people were charged with looting a home damaged by Hurricane Idalia in Florida’s Big Bend region, as residents’ concerns grew that burglars could be tempted to hit other hurricane-ravaged homes since law enforcement is stretched thin in the remote, wooded area along the Gulf Coast.”
The report noted further: “A man and a woman from Palmetto, Florida, almost 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of where Idalia made landfall, were arrested Wednesday after an officer from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission heard noises coming from outside a home in Horseshoe Beach.”
The officer discovered a man and a woman in the process of loading items from the waterfront home into a rented pickup truck. One of the individuals claimed to deputies that the homeowner had granted permission to remove items from the elevated house.
However, upon contacting the homeowners, deputies were told that the owners had not authorized any such action, according to the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office.
Each of the suspects was charged with multiple offenses, including burglary of an unoccupied dwelling during an emergency, grand theft, and trespassing. The bail amount for both was set at $1 million each, the AP reported.
“We are taking strong action against this criminal activity,” the sheriff’s office said in the statement.
For his part, DeSantis said it was “ridiculous” for anyone to try and loot just hours after the hurricane’s 125 mph winds and torrential storm surge wreaked havoc on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the New York Post reported.
“I’ve told all of our personnel at the state level, you know, you protect people’s property and we are not going to tolerate any looting in the aftermath of a natural disaster,” the governor added.
“Don’t even think about looting. Don’t even think about taking advantage of people in this vulnerable situation,” DeSantis added, going on to say that some people were “bringing boats” onto storm-ravaged islands and “trying to ransack people’s homes.”
“I can tell you, in the state of Florida, you never know what may be lurking behind somebody’s home, and I would not wanna chance that if I were you, given that we’re a Second Amendment state,” he said, again noting a “You loot, we shoot” sign that he saw on a boarded-up business.
DeSantis mentioned the “political season” earlier this week when discussing the storm’s potential “life-threatening” nature and its effects on Florida.
“There’s time and a place to have a political season, but then there’s a time and a place to say that this is something that’s life-threatening,” the governor said Monday. “This is something that could potentially cost somebody their life, that could cost them their livelihood. And we have a responsibility as Americans to come together and do what we can to mitigate any damage and to protect people.”
“So that’s what I’ve done on all these different issues, and that’s what I’ll continue to do; when you have these situations, you got to step up,” the GOP governor said.