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Lake City City Council: Packing a Gun At Council Meetings – Not a good thing to do, Part I

Photo: Lake City City Hall with standing room only with one attendee covering his face with his hat. Caption: Lake City, City Hall, February 22, 2022. Standing room only - who has the gun?
Only one person in City Hall purposefully hid their face.

LAKE CITY, FL – Tuesday’s City Council meeting once again lived up to the deteriorating reputation of Lake City being a community where City Council meetings teeter between civility and insanity. Only one person was asked to leave, and that was by the police. The reason: packing a gun.

For over two hours, Tuesday’s Lake City's City Council meeting swung out of control. Lake City's Mayor Steven Witt once again allowed finger-pointing, threats, stand-offs, shouting out, and cross-examination between audience members, speakers and himself, and members of the City Council.

CouncilmanTodd Sampson
CouncilmanTodd Sampson

The personal attacks became so bad that City Councilman Todd Sampson gathered up his things, stood up, and announced to Mayor Witt that he was leaving the meeting if he didn't get it under control.

It is not clear why Mr. Sampson sat back down, and after he did, things did not get much better. Councilman Sampson was the only public official who did not respond to requests for comment for this article and the forthcoming part II.

Local Mainstream Media, MIA: Someone “dropped a dime”

The local mainstream media didn't attend the meeting. However, Wednesday, the newspaper reported that an “unidentified individual” was asked to leave the meeting after admitting he was carrying a gun.

It appeared someone “dropped a dime,” alerting the newspaper of the incident. Long-time reporter Tony Britt was assigned to the story.

LCPD Chief Butler
LCPD Chief Butler

While gathering information for this article, Interim Police Chief Gerald Butler (Chief Butler) told your reporter, “The man was not arrested, and that is why I did not reveal the individual to the newspaper.”

There are problems with not attending meetings in person, particularly in Lake City. The City refuses to have more than one static camera with a limited field of view focused on half the lectern and the City Council. With this limitation, it is impossible to gauge the tenor of the audience and know who is in attendance. Additionally, the audio quality (although a little better now since the Oberserver's last complaint) has generally been the worst of any web broadcast government meeting.

Shaun Holmgren during his third trip to the microphone
Shawn Holmgren during his third trip to the mic.

The newspaper reported, “When the unidentified man was done talking to the Council, Butler asked the man to step out into the lobby. Butler then asked him whether he was carrying a firearm.”

The trip to the microphone was the "unidentified" man's third, a fact not reported and something which could have only been known for sure by attending the meeting or scouring the City's limited video.

Neither Lake City Reporter Publisher Todd Wilson, nor Editor Jamie Wahter, advised the public that the Lake City Reporter was not on the scene.

The Unidentified Man, Shawn Holmgren:
Intelligent comments, wacky behavior, and packin’

Shaun Holmgren during the Glen Adams City Manager interview.
Shawn Holmgren during the Glen Adams City Manager interview.

Shawn Holmgren is a relative newcomer to Lake City. He has become the spokesperson for an unidentified group of folks, mainly white, who are part of Lake City's old guard, supported former Assistant City Manager Dan Sweat and former City Manager Joe Helfenberger, and were vehemently opposed to former Interim City Manager Ami Fields.

Mr. Holmgren is well-spoken and always polite when addressing the City Council.

Mr. Holmgren contributes position papers to the City Clerk for distribution to the City Council.

Mr. Holmgren's wacky behavior of holding his giant bowler hat in front of his face at public meetings has become an annoyance noticed by many citizens and officials at City and County meetings.

Shaun Holmgren during the Thomas Thomas City Manager interview.
Shawn Holmgren during the Thomas Thomas City Manager interview.

This reporter asked one of Mr. Holmgren’s supporters to speak with him about holding his hat in front of his face and was told, “He doesn’t like to have his picture taken.”

Your reporter responded, “He is ruining everyone’s photos and is distracting. If he doesn’t want his pictures taken at a public meeting, tell him to sit in the corner.”

Lake City Police Department

The Lake City Police Department has been providing heightened security during City Council meetings for the past couple of years. During that time, Lake City Mayor Steven Witt has been progressively losing control of the meetings.

One officer sits alongside the Council, and two others, which generally always includes the Police Chief, are in the back of the Council chamber.

It is not clear why it took Mr. Holmgren's third trip to the microphone for the Police to notice Mr. Holmgren's holster bulge on Tuesday evening.

Finally, after the police noticed that Mr. Holmgren appeared to be “packin’,” the Chief allowed him to finish his presentation and take his seat, after which the police approached him in the audience. He was escorted into the lobby by the Chief and Lieutenant Andy Miles.

Shaun Holmgren during a County economic development meeting. Sitting at Mr. Holmgren's right is Lake City Reporter editor Jamie Wahter.
Shawn Holmgren during a County economic development meeting. Sitting at Mr. Holmgren's right is Lake City Reporter editor Jamie Wahter.

After the Chief and Lieutenant returned to the Council chamber, sans Mr. Holmgren, your reporter asked Chief Butler what happened.

Chief Butler answered, "We saw a bulge under his jacket, asked him if he was carrying a gun, and showed him the "no guns" sign by the entrance to the council chamber."

The Chief showed the “no guns” sign to your reporter, who commented, “I never noticed that.”

The Chief said it had been up there for three or four months.

While Florida Statutes prohibit guns at City Council meetings, Mayor Witt has never announced guns were not allowed.

Florida law does not ban guns from the building.

City Hall a few moments before the February 22 meeting concluded.
City Hall a few moments before the February 22 meeting concluded.

After two and a half hours, only two members of the public remained at the Council meeting, along with a handful of utility department employees. The meeting finally adjourned.

Councilman Sampson has a history with Mr. Holmgren.

After the meeting, he walked up to Chief Butler and asked him what had happened.

The Chief's response was not audible, but Mr. Sampson's reaction was.


Coucilman Sampson said, ""That's good, he could have shot me."

And that’s why guns are not allowed during Council meetings.

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