Polk County, Fla., Sheriff Grady Judd during a press conference in 2006 (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images)

A lawsuit has been filed against a Florida sheriff for misusing emergency shelters during Hurricane Irma to check for warrants among those seeking refuge.

According to the New York Daily News, the suit has been filed against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. Plaintiff Andres Barreno, who was seeking shelter during the storm, claims he was denied entry this past weekend. Barreno says that deputies demanded he undergo a criminal-background check before entering.

It’s unclear which shelter Barreno tried to access or whether there was or is a warrant out for his arrest.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Judd tweeted out from the official Polk County sheriff’s account that if Floridians with warrants out for their arrest were to seek shelter, his officers would “gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail.”


Judd repeated the warning several times via social media. He also claimed that his decision was made to protect children at shelters from sex offenders.


The Daily News reports that the American Civil Liberties Union’s Florida chapter slammed Judd’s “irresponsible tweets” and “discouraged him from adopting former Arizona law-enforcement boss Joe Arpaio’s “‘tough cop’ style.”

Mike Donovan, the CEO of Nexus Services, an inmates-rights group based out of Virginia that helped file the suit against Judd, noted that the sheriff’s warnings could have a chilling effect on people seeking refuge, potentially endangering lives.


From PR Newswire:

Sheriff Grady Judd knew that people would be afraid because of his statements earlier this week. That fear is causing them to not seek shelter, and that as a result people… Men, women, and children, may die. This storm is deadly, and how many people will die or be injured because of Judd’s reckless tweets? The Sheriff has sworn an oath to protect people, not endanger them. His actions are reckless and unconstitutional, and he needs to be held accountable for his actions.”

Judd, meanwhile, told the Orlando Sentinel that the lawsuit against him was “frivolous” and that he had no intention of changing his policy.