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Manhattan DA Seeks ‘Red Flag’ Gun Ban for Comptroller Employee

Prosecutors cited alleged threats to Comptroller Brad Lander’s staff, in rare city use of state law that allows authorities to remove firearms from people considered potential risks for violence

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The Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan, Oct. 5, 2021.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday secured a rare protective order barring gun ownership for an employee of the city comptroller’s office alleging he made threats to co-workers — including words warning of violence at an upcoming holiday party.

The temporary extreme risk protection order under New York’s “red flag law” is just the third obtained by the Manhattan district attorney’s office since the law went into effect in 2019, according to a spokesperson for Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg.

Prosecutors filed the request in the case of Seson Adams, a community coordinator in the office of the city comptroller, currently Brad Lander, according to a spokesperson for the agency. 

Their petition to Manhattan state Supreme Court, relying on a sworn affidavit from an NYPD detective assigned to protect public officials, cited an August 2020 domestic violence case still pending in Manhattan criminal court, in which Adams was charged with aggravated harassment, attempted assault, criminal obstruction of breathing and criminal mischief.

The NYPD also alleges “evidence of a deterioration in his mental health condition” — a necessary condition for obtaining a red flag order.

A spokesperson for Lander said Adams was first hired at the office in 2010, terminated four years later and then rehired in 2016. 

 “The Comptroller’s office takes the safety and wellbeing of our staff very seriously and we are coordinating closely with the Manhattan DA and the NYPD,” spokesperson Chloe Chik told THE CITY in a statement. The comptroller’s office confirmed he is still an employee.

The NYPD alleged to the court that Adams, 43, repeatedly threatened his supervisors, including at a May 17, 2022 meeting where he allegedly repeated to a supervisor: “12-hundred will get you 15 ghost guns.” He also yelled at the supervisor and banged on the table during a conversation about his salary and how he was living out of his car because of the protection order against him, according to the affidavit.

“What the f–k did you say to me,” he allegedly told his bosses, according to the court filing. “Are you f—ing crazy…. I’m really trying not to come in this bitch and cause serious trauma.” 

He also allegedly made threatening and intimidating statements and displayed a permit or license for a gun to his manager, while repeatedly mentioning ghost guns. 

Comptroller Brad Lander speaks at City Hall, May 19, 2022.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Over the last few months, he threatened to “take action with trial by Combat” and then made threats towards his office, at 1 Centre Street, police alleged.

“When is everyone going to be in the office. I will let the family know what day to take off,” he wrote in an email to his supervisors, sent Nov. 16, according to police. “When I return it’s up. I will make sure to bring every report.”

The next day, he sent a follow-up email: “Never mind I found out when we are all getting together. December 15th correct. Lights Camera Action…God Bless all of our deeds.”

Adams could not be reached for comment.

Mass-Shooting Response

Also on Tuesday, Bragg’s office sought an ERPO ban against a second Manhattan resident, stemming from an alleged domestic incident at his Chinatown apartment in which police allege he brandished a gun, according to the court documents. 

The man, a military veteran, has a license to possess the firearm at his apartment, according to the filing. His girlfriend told police officers that she believed he was mentally ill but had not sought help. 

He could not be reached for comment.

Under the state’s red flag law, passed in response to mass shootings, judges in New York can issue an extreme risk protection (ERPO) order that restricts a person deemed a danger to themselves or others from buying firearms for a year. It also allows law enforcement to confiscate a gun already in someone’s possession.

But the statute — which lets law enforcement, school staff, family and housemates petition the state Supreme Court to bar the person from buying the guns — has rarely been used in New York City, court data shows. 

Up until recently, with data through May, there had only been one full-year ban approved in New York City, according to the state office of Court Administration. 

The case, in Queens, involved a man who had years earlier tried to smuggle a sword inside his cane onto a flight at JFK Airport, although the protective order is sealed. Judges in Brooklyn issued two temporary ERPOs, in cases that were also sealed. 

By contrast, judges in Suffolk County on Long Island have issued hundreds of ERPO bans since 2019, the state data shows. 

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg speaks in Lower Manhattan in September.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

In May, Lisa Geller, the state affairs advisor at Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, told THE CITY that the NYPD told her that ERPO numbers were low in the city because it’s more difficult for a person to obtain a firearms permit in the city. 

“From what we’ve surmised, there has not been enough use of ERPO as there could be,” Rebecca Rischer, the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, told THE CITY in May. 

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