Would-be rescuers should be applauded, not arrested

I just don’t understand.

Pasco County resident Henry Benjamin Morgan was arrested Friday for trying to save his pets when his home burst into flames because of an electrical fire, according to the Tampa Tribune.

In the article, Lisa Davis reported that Morgan and his wife arrived after firefighters were already on the scene. Shortly after, Henry Morgan attempted to break into his home to rescue the animals, but was subdued by deputies and firefighters.

Ultimately, the Morgans and their three children weren’t hurt. But the family’s home was completely destroyed and they lost at least three of their dogs and one cat in the blaze.

The police report on the Pasco County Sheriff’s Web site indicates that he was arrested on charges of obstructing a firefighter from extinguishing a fire and resisting arrest without violence. It also mentioned that he was released on $5,150 bail that afternoon.

This is a man who just lost so much that’s precious to him.

Meanwhile, instead of getting law enforcement’s condolences, he is thrown into jail for four and half hours, forced to pay $5,150 in bail and will ultimately face a court hearing and need a lawyer.

Since the obstruction charge is considered a third-degree felony, Morgan could face up to five years in prison, according to Florida statute 775.082.

All of this just for looking out for the well-being of his beloved animals.

With the exception of an arrest for an incident related to not having a vehicle registration, Morgan seems to have a clean record. For all intents and purposes, it’s safe to say that this man is an upright citizen.

Given the circumstances, it upsets to me to see law-abiding citizens treated like dirt for being compassionate.

Granted, I am not condoning the obstruction of a firefighter from performing his duties. Nor am I suggesting that people race into a fire and put their lives in jeopardy.

However, the law-enforcement personnel involved and our justice system needs to look long and hard at the situation before exercising the long arm of the law.

At most, this man should have been detained then released. The “serve” part of “protect and serve” is not coming into play here.

In an attempt to get the full view of the circumstances, I attempted to contact the arresting officer and the Pasco County Sheriff’s spokesperson. However, neither of these individuals was available for immediate comment.

Morgan’s arrest appears to be a gross misjudgment by the officers on the scene.

Though foolish, chances are many people would react in a similar manner if they felt they had a chance to save their animals. The duress of losing something precious to us pushes many to unspeakable actions.

One would think this would have been understood and that empathy and leniency would have been expressed by the authorities. After all, how often does someone attempt a heroic deed such as rushing into a fire to save someone?

Such people should be revered, not thrown into jail, fined and given felonies.

Hopefully, the presiding judge will agree when this case reaches the bench.

Until that time, the lesson to be learned is that compassion and common sense among our hardworking police officers can go a long way in making a difference.

I sincerely hope the Morgans weather this holiday season without any more mishaps. My thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Jeremy Castanza is a senior majoring in economics.