Hurricane Ian obliterated areas of southwest Florida this week – leaving a trail of death and destruction. The current death toll is at least 45 people, but that number is expected to rise as search-and-rescue teams access areas that have been isolated from the devastating effects of the Category 4 hurricane.
Hurricane Ian made landfall near the island of Cayo Costa with winds of 155 mph – just 2 mph short of a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Only three other hurricanes that hit Florida were stronger: Labor Day Hurricane (1935): 185 mph, Hurricane Andrew (1992): 165 mph, and Hurricane Michael (2018): 160 mph.
The monster storm reduced the coastal areas to rubbish and tossed yachts like toys.
However, some Floridians have used the dire situation to loot businesses.
On Friday, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office posted photos on social media of five individuals being arrested for looting.
“Sheriff Carmine Marceno means business and has taken a zero tolerance stance on looting. We are patrolling and you will be arrested if you partake in criminal activity,” the sheriff’s office declared in a Facebook post.
DeSantis delivered an unflinching warning to anyone contemplating looting in the aftermath of the apocalyptic hurricane.
“They boarded up all the businesses, and there are people that wrote on their plywood, ‘you loot, we shoot,'” DeSantis said during a press conference near Fort Myers in southwest Florida. “At the end of the day, we are not going to allow lawlessness to take advantage of this situation. We are a law-and-order state, and this is a law-and-order community, so do not think that you’re going to go take advantage of people who’ve suffered misfortune.”
Later in the day, DeSantis doubled down on his law-and-order tone during a press conference in St. Augustine – in the northeastern part of the state.
“The other thing we’re concerned about, particularly in those areas that were really hard hit, is we want to make sure we’re maintaining law and order,” DeSantis said. “Don’t even think about looting. Don’t even think about taking advantage of people in this vulnerable situation.”
“I can tell you, in the state of Florida, you never know what may be lurking behind somebody’s home,” DeSantis said. “I would not want to chance that if I were you, given that we’re a Second Amendment state.”
DeSantis campaign’s rapid response director Christina Pushaw shared photos of signs in front of homes in Lee County that read: “Try to loot, I will eat your face,” and “Loot here, die here.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody reiterated that looting would not be tolerated.
“Florida will not tolerate looters taking advantage of Hurricane Ian to prey on vulnerable Floridians,” Moody wrote on Twitter. “They will be arrested and I have asked state attorneys to seek the longest pretrial detention possible to keep them locked up so they cannot commit new crimes.”
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno warned, “Don’t do it in this county. Don’t make that mistake. Because one thing we do have is vacancy at the jail. And I guarantee you if you try to prey on one of our great residents, you will find yourself in that jail.”
Lee County Manager Roger Dejarlais proclaimed, “To be sure, and I feel safe relaying this in on behalf of law enforcement, there’s going to be a zero-tolerance policy for looting and violence in this town.”
The badly battered Lee County announced a 6 p.m. curfew until further notice.