What Constitution? Police ordered to arrest gym owners in New Jersey who refused to close their doors.

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BELLMAWR, NJ – Two gym owners in New Jersey who decided not to abide by state Governor Phil Murphy’s order related to COVID-19 found themselves arrested for keeping their gym doors open.

Despite the two getting arrested, one witness to the arrest wanted to make sure that people knew the officers “were polite & respectful.”

According to police, 33-year-old Ian Smith and 51-year-old Frank Trumbetti were both charged with one count of fourth-degree contempt, obstruction, and violation of disaster control act. The terrible act that led to these charges?

Keeping a gym open.

Officials stated that between July 24th and the 27th, a myriad of people were spotted making their way into Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, likely in an effort to get their workouts in.

But that was a big no-no in the era of COVID and also the governor’s order to close up those pesky “non-essential” businesses.

A friend of the gym owners, BJ Dowlen, was presently at the gym when police arrived to arrest the two owners:

“Well, this was a first. I stayed the night in the gym writing, my book clients Ian & Frank were just waking up, I’m gathering my computer & notebooks, just waiting for the guys to come out for a few final questions, and then a SWARM of Camden County Sheriffs & local Bellmawr police (with K-9 units waiting in a vehicle) come bursting thru the door…to me, sitting there, writing, by myself.”

Dowlen’s noting of the event on Facebook also detailed that police were “respectful” while having to take the gym owners into custody over the violation of Governor Murphy’s order:

“First & foremost, the law enforcement officers were polite & respectful. Look for my video footage on national channels. And tonight/this morning, I am writing this new book chapter right now!!!”

Both Trumbetti and Smith were transported over to the Bellmawr Police Department, where they were processed, charged and subsequently released. The charges levied are among disorderly conduct/persons charges and may result in minimal consequences if convicted. 

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This isn’t the first time we reported on a small business owner getting arrested for keeping their business open. 

A small business owner and father of three that is based out of Apex, North Carolina was arrested on April 29th. His crime was opening up his shop, against the state’s emergency prohibition of non-essential businesses being open.

Matthew Myers is the proud owner of Apex Tattoo Factory, and has been building his book of business for several years.

Yet, like many other small business owners, the 38-year-old saw his life’s work crumbling before his eyes under Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order that deemed his business to be closed as it is “non-essential”.

Myers had announced his intentions on social media to re-open his shop on April 29th, namely because he was getting denied loans and financial assistance to keep up with the expenses of his home life and his business.

However, locals against the idea of Myers opening his shop reported his Facebook post to police.

As soon as he opened up the doors, police were there minutes later.

The tattoo shop owner has always considered himself to be a decent citizen, but he felt as though he was being backed into a corner when he made up his mind that day:

“I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’ve done nothing wrong. When you can put a father of three in jail for opening his business because nobody will give me a loan, and let alone help me. My own bank, nobody is helping us.”

Sometimes desperation can lead individuals to engage in drastic measures. Yet, it’s odd that in this day-and-age, a “drastic measure” could be described as opening up a “non-essential business”. Still, Myers is saddened that it had to come down to him being arrested:

“I respect the Apex Police Department. And it’s probably with the heaviest of heart of all that this has to happen in Apex…that I have to be the one that’s the first bee swatted.”

The response online has been mixed, with several coming to the defense of the shop owner, and others citing that it was good that he got arrested. Even former police officers have gotten into the conversation as well, with some expressing worry about what officers are being compelled to do in these unique times.

If Myers is found guilty of the charges levied, which was violating the “Emergency Prohibitions and Restrictions” statute in relation to the governor’s executive order, he could face up to 60 days in jail.

The Apex Police Department released a statement regarding the arrest of Myers, stating:

“While understanding of and generally cooperative with officers, [Myers] refused to come into compliance with the Proclamation and was subsequently arrested without further incident.”

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