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East Lake Fire Commissioner arrested in Key West after mask ordinance violation

After refusing to wear a mask as required by city ordinance, James Dalrymple was charged with obstruction of justice when he declined to show his ID to a police officer.

East Like Fire Rescue Commissioner James Dalrymple was arrested in downtown Key West on Wednesday and charged with obstruction of justice after an incident that unfolded after he refused to wear a mask as required by city ordinance.

According to a Key West Police report, officer Leonardo Hernandez saw a group walking south on Duval Street around 6:40 p.m. A few in the group were not wearing masks.

After the officer asked them to put on masks, which the city requires while outside of residences, Dalrymple, 64, responded that “the governor’s order says we do not have to,” according to the incident report.

On Sept. 25, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted coronavirus-related restrictions on business capacity and operations, but his order did not repeal local mandates that require masks.

The reopening order did, however, take away municipalities’ ability to impose fines on individuals who violate the restrictions.

On Nov. 19, the Key West City Commission voted unanimously to strengthen its mask ordinance and require face coverings at all times while outside of residences. The previous version of the ordinance allowed masks to be removed outside while social distancing.

The city put out a statement in October that it would continue to issue citations for violators and collect the fines when the governor’s order expires.

Hernandez stated in the police report he offered Dalrymple a complimentary face mask, but he declined. The officer then asked Dalrymple to stop but he kept walking, according to the report.

When Dalrymple finally stopped, the officer stated he asked Dalrymple to provide identification three times. He refused each time, according to the report.

Before placing Dalrymple under arrest, Hernandez stated in the police report he warned that refusing to provide identification to a law enforcement officer constitutes obstruction of justice.

When the officer asked Dalrymple to put his hands behind his back, the fire commissioner “hesitated to comply and I had to ask him several times to comply,” according to the report.

Dalrymple was charged with obstruction of justice without violence and violating a local ordinance, both misdemeanors.

He remained in jail Thursday afternoon, according to his wife, Tammy Dalrymple.

Tammy Dalrymple said the couple is in Key West for their annual vacation with nine friends.

She said the group had just watched the sunset in Mallory Square and were walking to find a place to eat on Duval Street.

“Jim felt as though he, along with the hundreds of other people walking around with no masks on were fully within their legal rights as U.S. citizens,” Tammy Dalrymple said.

The couple’s friend, Kim Adams, posted a cell phone video of a portion of the incident online, which Tammy Dalrymple confirmed was authentic. (Warning: The footage was not recorded by the Tampa Bay Times.)

Dalrymple won a second term serving as an East Lake Fire Commissioner on Nov. 3 against two opponents. He served 27 years as a firefighter in the district.

“I’m just appalled and distressed that this is what our country is coming to,” Tammy Dalrymple said.

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