As Hurricane Irma continued to churn toward Florida, a sheriff known for his outspoken comments created a storm on social media Wednesday.
Grady Judd, sheriff of Polk County in central Florida, is threatening to jail people with outstanding warrants who try to seek shelter.
Public information officer Carrie Eleazer Horstman, who tweeted on behalf of Judd’s Twitter account, @PolkCoSheriff, wrote that “If you go to a shelter for #Irma, be advised: sworn LEOs (law enforcement officials) will be at every shelter, checking IDs. Sex offenders/predators will not be allowed.”
In a later tweet, readers were advised that if a person had an outstanding warrant, “we’ll gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail.”
“We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders and predators. Period,” read another tweet.
“I was just trying to keep people informed ahead of time,” Horstman told The Tampa Bay Times. "We can't allow sexual predators in the centers and shelters.”
Reaction was swift.
“How many people will you have to rescue because they were afraid that seeking shelter might mean going to jail?” Adam Steinbaugh tweeted.
“So, at best, ur impeding law enforcement (telling ppl w/ warrants 2 stay away) or, at the human level, pushing them to die,” author Kurt Eichenwald tweeted.
"We see that people [on Twitter] are upset, but the bottom line is the shelters are here to protect people and we want people to be safe," Horstman told the Times. "If you have a warrant, turn yourself into the jail and if you are a predator, find somewhere to go."
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