An image of a MacGyver’d antique gun confiscated by Baltimore police officers last week went viral this weekend. With thousands of people cracking jokes on Facebook, the Baltimore Police Department eventually joined in on the fun.
Gun arrests are almost never funny, and with good reason: Firearms drive violent crime in a city that saw 318 homicides last year and 50 in the first eight weeks of this year. But after police said they found a 36-year-old man carrying drugs and what appeared to be a 19th-century pistol with an electrical tape-bound grip last Wednesday, laughter ensued on the internet.
“I was under the impression that John Wilkes Booth was no longer alive,” wrote Facebook commenter Michael VonSas, earning nearly 76,000 likes.
“This is the first gun you have access to in Grand Theft Auto: Gettysburg,” replied Steven Hill, besting him with more than 92,500 likes.
Stephen Fleg feigned outrage: “People joking about this thing are sick. That gun could take down your horse with one shot and put a hole through your cloak after a lengthy reloading process!”
Oftentimes, police admonish social media users who mock suspects or victims in violent cases, such as a bystander shot in the buttocks or a brazen, poorly executed armed robbery captured on surveillance footage. But this time, police commended those who showcased their creative wit with a simple reply of “Nice!”
They even offered their own take on a punishment for the suspect: “If it pleases the court, we will ensure we safeguard this firearm and ensure the safety of all in the village of Lord Baltimore. Whilst this young lad possessed this weapon illegally, his punishment shall not include that of public stoning nor shaming. He therefore shall be recommended as a candidate for reenactment just up the road in Gettysburg.”
In reality, court records show the man, Keith Gladden, was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, illegal ammo possession, having a handgun on his person and in his vehicle and possession of a controlled substance-not marijuana. He was processed and eventually detained on March 3.
Even if he’s incarcerated, Gladden has likely been made aware of the post, now shared almost 129,000 times on Facebook. In a way, he’s already stood trial before creative Facebook users and web trolls. As Aaron Bethea wrote, “All these comments should be read at his hearing. Should be punishment enough.”
The humorous arrest is a bright spot in an otherwise terrible month for BPD, which saw seven of its own officers indicted for allegedly claiming almost $400,000 in falsified overtime pay while on vacation, stealing from suspects and citizens alike and participating in an alleged racketeering conspiracy.
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