Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Lawrence man, among the few ticketed for Fourth of July fireworks, awaits his day in court

July 13, 2013


Matt McManis, 39, was one of four Lawrence residents ticketed by police this year for shooting illegal fireworks. Like many, says he is not a fan of the 2002 prohibition on fireworks in Lawrence.

Matt McManis, 39, was one of four Lawrence residents ticketed by police this year for shooting illegal fireworks. Like many, says he is not a fan of the 2002 prohibition on fireworks in Lawrence.

A Fourth of July celebration in the cul-de-sac of Bluestem Court produced a fair amount of fireworks related debris, which resident Matt McManis and neighbors cleaned up. McManis said he thought the appearance of litter might have contributed to a Lawrence police officer's decision to ticket him for violating the city's ban on fireworks.

A Fourth of July celebration in the cul-de-sac of Bluestem Court produced a fair amount of fireworks related debris, which resident Matt McManis and neighbors cleaned up. McManis said he thought the appearance of litter might have contributed to a Lawrence police officer's decision to ticket him for violating the city's ban on fireworks.

A municipal citation for illegal fireworks issued to Matt McManis, 39, of Lawrence. McManis said he doesn't agree with the ban but does not dispute the charge.

A municipal citation for illegal fireworks issued to Matt McManis, 39, of Lawrence. McManis said he doesn't agree with the ban but does not dispute the charge.

Matt McManis, 39, of Lawrence, helps organize his neighborhood's annual Fourth of July celebration in southwest Lawrence. He was one of four Lawrence residents ticketed by police this year for shooting off illegal fireworks.

Matt McManis, 39, of Lawrence, helps organize his neighborhood's annual Fourth of July celebration in southwest Lawrence. He was one of four Lawrence residents ticketed by police this year for shooting off illegal fireworks.

Matt McManis, ticketed for shooting fireworks on July Fourth in Lawrence, felt a little singled out.

He didn't dispute the facts: He was guilty. McManis, 39, along with his wife, children, and about 30 neighbors and friends, ignited a significant quantity of fireworks outside his home in southwest Lawrence, just as they have for the past several years.

So McManis accepted a municipal citation from a Lawrence police officer without complaint. He knew, of course, that most fireworks, certainly including the mortars and roman candles he had been firing over the cul-de-sac of Bluestem Court, have been illegal in Lawrence for more than 10 years.

But after reading in the Journal-World that only one citation had been written — to him — among all of the people across the city shooting off fireworks that night, he wondered: Why me?

In fact, police now say, officers wrote four citations for fireworks violations in Lawrence over the July Fourth holiday. Three more citations were noted in police records in the following days as officers completed paperwork from the busy night, said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman.

The police responded to more than 100 complaints about fireworks that night, issuing warnings to many residents, even as they handled drunken drivers and other calls elsewhere in the city.

Why the police officer chose to issue McManis one of the night's relatively few citations, rather than giving him a warning, is hard to say. In past years, the police have driven by the party during the day and waved. There have never been any problems, McManis said.

The difference might have been in the late hour, or in appearances. The family-friendly party on Bluestem Court was fairly large, with dozens people, an inflatable castle rented for the children and a fair amount of firework debris in the street, which McManis and the neighbors cleaned up later.

Or, as McKinley pointed out, the officer might have been thinking of the neighbor who called police shortly before 11 p.m. saying some of the fireworks were landing on the neighbor's vehicle and property.

"If people are calling in and they have that level of detail, and they want us to do something about it, it doesn't surprise me that we would write a citation," McKinley said.

Some have complained that the police department doesn't enforce the fireworks prohibition aggressively enough. The police department has averaged about three fireworks citations a year since 2008, according to a preliminary department report. Violating the fireworks ordinance is punishable by a fine of up to $200 on the first offense, while each subsequent violation could trigger a fine of up to $500 plus up to six months in jail.

Police note that they do more than issue citations, and point to the amount of an officer's time that a fireworks citation can take up. From June 30 to July 6 this year, Lawrence police responded to nearly 200 fireworks complaints and confiscated fireworks from 12 different locations.

And writing a ticket isn't necessarily as simple as it sounds, McKinley said. Legally, an officer cannot write a juvenile a ticket for fireworks. Municipal citations can only be issued to adults — with the exception of traffic infractions, which operate differently.

Consequently, in the many, many fireworks cases that involve teenagers, an officer would have two options: spend hours detaining the teenager, write a full report, contact parents, and possibly take the child to a juvenile detention facility, or give a stern warning and go on to handle the next call.

"We're always willing to expend whatever resources on enforcement that the city asks for," McKinley said. "What do you want to spend your resources on?"

The statistics and procedures don't matter much to McManis, who must appear in Lawrence Municipal Court later this month to face a fine of up to $200. Like many in Lawrence, he is not a fan of the prohibition on pyrotechnics.

"I still think it's silly," he said. But he does not blame the police officer who ticketed him, or plan to contest the charge. "I have respect for the law. Yes, I broke the law. If I have to pay a $200 fine, I'll pay the $200 fine."

It is, McManis said, his first offense, so there is no danger of jail time. And some of his neighbors have offered to pitch in a few dollars to help with the fine.

Regardless of the court's verdict, McManis said, his neighborhood Fourth of July party will continue next year. He will again invite the neighbors, throw some meat on the grill and probably will rent another bouncy castle, he said. For the children there will be, at least, some of the small, novelty fireworks that are legal in the city.

Whether next year's celebration will again involve something more explosive, he said, he doesn't know.

"If someone wants to bring something else, well, that's what it is," he said.


Tom McCune 4 years ago

If spending $1 billion on advertising is "free speech" and burning the flag is "freedom of expression" then maybe shooting fireworks on the Fourth of July is also protected by the first amendment. Don't plead the fifth, Matt. Plead the first!

BringBackMark 4 years ago

Let's, for once, do something as a community and get a petition signed to force a referendum on this issue. I suspect that if the ban was brought to a vote that the "same sex marriage" crowd would turn out in force and uphold it. At least it would be fun to try. Anyone else interested?

Eric Ryan 4 years ago

I've vote rescind the fireworks laws...just moved back into town after 19 years away, and I was surprised most fireworks were now banned.

jf2000 4 years ago

It is called Freedom. What harm is he doing?

crafty 4 years ago

He's infringing on my right to peace and quiet in my own home.

Clickker 4 years ago

Its about time. These guys just flaunt the law, especially in front of children. If you'se cant to the time, dont's do the crime

Glo 4 years ago

Wow! What a guy! Look at the lesson he is teaching his children . What other laws does he ignore because he doesn't like them? His behavior is an example of disregard for others and the law. How about he works to have the ban revoked and until then do like the rest of us do, and respect the law and find an alternative way to celebrate. McManis needs to grow- up and quit acting like a spoiled child.

crafty 4 years ago

And, he's probably raising spoiled children who will never have any respect for the law. Wonder how his wife feels...I can't imagine the embarrassment.

Brock Masters 4 years ago

Agree. You admit guilt so man up and pay the fine.

Scott Morgan 4 years ago

How ironic, the fellow was given a ticket on the 4th breaking a stupid freedom sucking law.....kinda like our forefathers. Yep, if it weren't for folks like McManis we'd be taking tea at three, and honoring the queen.

Patricia Davis 4 years ago

Some how I think the likes of John Adams would consider this person an uncouth idiot who failed to respect his neighbors' rights.

Jonathan Becker 4 years ago

I am going to use the McManis defense, the next time my dog, is off leash and caught. Fideaux off leash is my expreession of freedom, my celebration with my 165 lb Saint Bernard of Bastille Day tomorrow.

The City Commission made a rational decision banning fireworks. Some people who served in the military don't like explosive noises on the Fourth (or any other day). Reminds them too much of a bad time in their lives. The Commission had complaint of fireworks beginning before 6 am and lasting well into the fifth of July. There were those Darwin awards that went to those who set off fireworks and wound up setting their roof (or their neighbor's roof on Bluestem Court) on fire.

And why should police and fire resources have to be committed to protecting Bluestem Court homes to the exclusion of others because of Mr. McManis' criminal act?

It is too bad Judge Miller can't sentence him to wear the back end of horse's costume until Halloween.

Tony Kisner 4 years ago

Matt hold your ground. You are simply following in the footsteps of our great fore fathers. You are the Rosa Parks of fireworks.

history 4 years ago

Seriously, the Rosa Parks of fireworks. Equality and the right to shoot fireworks are hardly to be compared

Seriously !!!

average 4 years ago

I'd be okay with some selective enforcement on the Fourth if there was a little more control around the Fouth. In my neighborhood, people were shooting them off from the first (happy Canada Day??) till they ran out on the seventh.

foggy 4 years ago

Because they look the other way, because they only cite 4 times (!!!! unbelievable) is why no one bothers to obey the law. If it was enforced, people would think twice before they put their own pleasure above the law.

crafty 4 years ago

Can't address the first question, but I'll bet the answer to the second one is that he sought out the attention. My guess is that he is probably pretty arrogant. The others are probably too ashamed to come forward and admit their crimes.

Brent Fry 4 years ago

So he broke the law (albeit a stupid one), admits to breaking the law, but doesn't want to be penalized for breaking the law? Mmmmkkkkayyy

IMHO 4 years ago

I spent six nights not getting to sleep until 1:30 AM to 2:30 AM due to the lack of respect of people. The "fireworks" that were set off were not the fireworks you could buy at the local stands. One night I had to get up and go out and check on our cars because they were shooting fireworks right next to them. That was at 11:30 on Sunday after the 4th. You can't tell me that officers patrolling the local neighbors cannot hear these loud explosions. If we have a law, we should enforce it. I understand that there might be priority calls but it is like this law is totally ignored by citizens and police officers. The gentleman that received the ticket should think about others that may not be in his "neighborhood". We can still hear the fireworks. Some of us have to work and not being able to sleep is really a problem during the 4th of July season. Have some respect for others.

foggy 4 years ago

DITTO-- people who work, people who have PTSD, nervous cats and dogs, people who just don't like to listen to endless sounds of pop pop and the irritation of worrying about where all those firecrackers are landing, well we are just out of luck. The police don't give a damn because half of them probably go home and set off their own fireworks. Until the city actually ENFORCES this ban, it'll just get worse and worse every year. At this point calling to complain is just a joke. 200 complaints and FOUR citations is appalling.

friendlyjhawk 4 years ago

If you don't like the law work the legal way to have it abolished. This isn't worth an LJW story.

workinghard 4 years ago

Here's a thought. Instead of shooting off fireworks to celebrate our freedom, how about going to a Veteran's hospital (or nursing home) to thank them for their service. Show the children what others have given for their freedom. They could make thank you cards for the Veterans. Lawrence used to have a festival with activities for the kids showing what life was like back then. How about a 4th of July parade? I'm willing to bet the reason most of the people are shooting off fireworks has nothing at all to do with freedom. When the city banned fireworks they should have had alternative activities planned. It's like taking a toy away from a child and saying they can't play with it and setting it where they can still get it. You usually give them something else to play with. Just a thought.

sentinel4820 4 years ago

I totally agree with you WorkingHard....

I am going to hedge a bet that the police were called to this area by a citizen and when asked to stop shooting off the fireworks, McManis developed an attitude to impress his children and neighbors, respect for the law or police enforcing said law, here is your ticket sir!!!

Since McManis has not been found guilty yet, albeit I bet the prosecution would love to introduce his Journal World comments into evidence, I would encourage the Journal World to block out his address on the citation.

Liberty275 4 years ago

Veteran's Day is different than independence day. Independence day celebrates our freedom from British control by emulating "the rockets red glare".

LegendaryBeast 4 years ago

"the rockets' red glare" comes from a song about a battle in the War of 1812, not from the American Revolution. The War of 1812 was over British trade restrictions and America's desire to take Canada from Great Britain. Had nothing to do with our independence!

Scott Morgan 4 years ago

Some of us can do both. Ask somebody at a nursing home if they wish to leave a watch fireworks, you'd be surprised by the answer. Also the memories of o so many past 4th celebrations.

history 4 years ago

Will you please stop using civil rights leaders to compare to this insignificant story !!

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

This story is to freedom what mountains are to molehills.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

Yes, this is one big government conspiracy to take away our freedoms. Force us to wear seat belts, limit our usage of noisy, dangerous products to outside urban areas. Next thing you know, we won't have the freedom to inject heroin, smoke crack cocaine or drive 100 MPH whenever we feel like it.

I'll bet George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are rolling in their graves, which are up on a hill with a nice view of the unmarked slave grave down below.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

You say you don't want a nanny state. Until you really need one. You say no one will be hurt if you don't wear a seat belt, unless of course, your injuries exceed your insurance coverage, in which case the nanny state will wind up picking up the cost of your care. And a serious head injury will do just that, so since you're putting the nanny state at risk, the nanny state has a right to limit it's risk by requiring you to wear your seat belt. The same is true with your use of drugs. The nanny state will provide services for you when the negative consequences of said use exceeds your individual ability to deal with them. So again, the nanny state has a right to limit it's exposure.

As for fireworks, your argument would have more merit if the loud noise fireworks produce didn't invade the privacy of people sitting in the privacy of their homes. There seems to be ample evidence that it disturbs the residents as well as their pets. The analogy you used elsewhere in this thread that your freedom ends when your fist strikes another's nose. Well, the sound is doing just that and it's clear it disturbs people trying to enjoy the privacy of their own homes. Invent fireworks that are quiet and you might be on to something.

LegendaryBeast 4 years ago

You consider it a "freedom" to discharge explosives that have the ability to destroy a neighbor's property? Is it also a freedom to break into the police station to free prisoners and steal weapons on Bastille Day?

Richard07 4 years ago

Yes, we need to have an Unjust Law Day. That way each and everyone of us can pick a law we see as unnecessary or unjust and disobey it. Good idea, angelus.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

Fireworks are a huge money making venture. How in the world are fireworks in any way attached to Freedom?

What are we celebrating? Law enforcement spying on Americans? Lying politicians at all levels .... city,state and federal levels? Women losing their rights to politicians? Reckless spent tax dollars? The Patriot Act that has nothing top do with patriotism?

Koch,Brownback,Wal-Mart Money and their supporters declaring war on wages and public education?

Who are we kidding?

Patricia Davis 4 years ago

If we are going to enforce the law, the make it illegal to purchase fireworks of any kind. Easy enough to police.

John Kyle 4 years ago

"I have respect for the law. Yes, I broke the law. If I have to pay a $200 fine, I'll pay the $200 fine."

If he DID have respect for the law he wouldn't have been shooting off fireworks within city limits.

Paul R Getto 4 years ago

Patriotism is often cited when blowing things up on the 4th. Patriots vote. One possible solution--only allow those who voted in the last local election to purchase and use fireworks. That would eliminate 80-90% of the noise, smoke and "patriotic" trash.

LawrenceTownie 4 years ago

I agree totally with you oxymoron. If the City has a law that bans fireworks, then why, why, why does the COUNTY let stands set up right outside the borders???? Hello City/County Governments. This is the most stupid thing I have seen lately by these two governing bodies. But really not much makes sense when these bodies are involved. Why just 4??? The judge should dismiss all 4, and set an example to the City on this issue.

P.S. I do not shoot off fireworks, did not buy any, never do. Got burned on 15th street when I was 9 by fireworks, never liked shooting them after that episode. And my dogs hate them anyway. So I respect their views.

geekin_topekan 4 years ago

While the County of Douglas and the City of Lawrence are different on many levels, they do hold one profound commonality--neither has Jack in the Box.

patkindle 4 years ago

I am not a fireworks buyer anymore, but I really aint agin em, but if some one was shooting off stuff that was hitting my car and house I might become a low life rat and call the police

Terry Jacobsen 4 years ago

This is not the American Revolution, it is not a case of race segregation, it is not an equal rights march. This is one guy, who doesn't like a law and decided he was not going to obey it. Not every act of civil disobedience is a good thing. The law is a good law for public safety and the common good of the community. There are people who believe every law is an affront to their personal freedom. I believe that is called anarchy.

EarthaKitt 4 years ago

Well that's silly. The implication of "my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins" sort of implies that swinging your fist at my nose, therefore, is rightfully unlawful. If you swing at my nose but miss, that doesn't mean you didn't try to hit my nose, which is why we can be charged with "attempted" crimes -- attempted assault in this case.

Fireworks (most fireworks) are illegal within city limits because there is a concentration of homes and other property. The county has different rules -- whether good or bad -- that apply to the differing circumstances of living outside of a densely populated area.

The laws are in place specifically FOR the "my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins" reason. The city is using laws to prevent accidents rather than citing folks after damage has been done. Just as if you swing your fist and hit my nose you should be charged with battery rather than random fist swinging, if you burn my house down with a bottle rocket you should be charged with burning my house down rather than littering.

You can't shoot guns willy nilly on the street because you might hit someone. You can't drive 70 mph through a school zone because you might run over someone.

This isn't anyone taking away freedom. These are laws that allow us to live together in a civilized manner. Let's try to get it together folks. We did a lot of crazy things way back when that we don't do anymore. Think of it as civic evolution.

appleaday 4 years ago

He might have been a little more considerate of his neighbors who, according to the story, called the police when the fireworks were landing on their vehicle and property. No one has the right to cause harm to another person.

SeaFox 4 years ago

Here's an idea then...

Instead of making a law against fireworks, lets make a law against littering and a law against destruction of property. That way, the police can ticket him for the actual harm he does and people who use their fireworks in a safe and considerate manner can continue to.

Oh, wait! You mean we already have laws against those things?

Wally 4 years ago

All together now! (To the tune of You're A Grand Old Flag):

Me, me, me, me, me, Me, me, me, me, me, me, And to heck with the neighbors around me! I'm the center of The world I love. I define what the holiday means. And my heart beats true to my right to peeve you. I have always a boast and brag. Let all my neighbors be forgot, Keep an eye on my right to rule!

patkindle 4 years ago

was the neighbor not invited to the party,?? why not,? was his car on his drive way or did he park it in the street for the fun of it. I would still have a problem it stuff was falling on my car and house, but it looks like a pretty close neighborhood, what is the rest of the story ??

BringBackMark 4 years ago

Please give us all a break. Charcoal grills cause way more fires than fireworks. Shall we ban them? Smoking accidents cause way more fires than fireworks. Shall we ban them? This entire ban is about a group of politicians that want to keep their finger on the citizens of Lawrence. Bring it to a public vote and let the majority decide. Then enforce whatever the outcome is.

kernal 4 years ago

Actually, there is a city code regarding charcoal grills. It bans them on apartment balconies and states how far from a building the grill needs to be located. Most of those fires you're referring to were caused by tenants ignorant of that code and/or those who dismissed the landlord's lease regarding grills.

Angie Dick 4 years ago

I happen to think then ban is crap! IT IS AMERICA PEOPLE! The person setting them off is responsible for what may happen But, to give them a fine? STUPID. LPD needs to go after criminals, not someone shooting off some fireworks!

Jonathan Becker 4 years ago

Shooting off fireworks in Lawrence is illegal. That is why Mr. Mantis was given a citation. It appears from the story he is going to represent himself. "He who represents himself has a fool for a client" - A. Lincoln

Maddy Griffin 4 years ago

A friend who works in the ER at LMH told me they had treated between 20 and 30 people,mostly kids, for firework related injuries the night of the 4th. Why weren't those people ticketed, or their parents.

LadyJ 4 years ago

LOL, celebrating the American 4th of July with Chinese made fireworks. Does anyone else see the irony in this?

Joe Berns 4 years ago

Well, the Chinese did invent fireworks so it only seems fitting. Error 404, irony not found.

LadyJ 4 years ago

And many things invented in America and now made in China. Seems fitting that things invented in America should be made in America then.

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