Saturday, July 20, 2013
By Tom Lyons
Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 9:50 p.m.
After leaving her operating room scrub nurse duties at Sarasota's Doctors Hospital on Wednesday, Louise Goldsberry went to her Hidden Lake Village apartment.
Her boyfriend came over, and after dinner — about 8 p.m. — Goldsberry went to her kitchen sink to wash some dishes.
That's when her boyfriend, Craig Dorris — a manager for a security alarm company — heard her scream and saw her drop to the floor.
Goldsberry, 59, said she had looked up from the sink to see a man “wearing a hunting vest.”
He was aiming a gun at her face, with a red light pinpointing her.
“I screamed and screamed,” she said.
But she also scrambled across the floor to her bedroom and grabbed her gun, a five-shot .38-caliber revolver. Goldsberry has a concealed weapons permit and says the gun has made her feel safer living alone. But she felt anything but safe when she heard a man yelling to open the door.
He was claiming to be a police officer, but the man she had seen looked to her more like an armed thug. Her boyfriend, Dorris, was calmer, and yelled back that he wanted to see some ID.
But the man just demanded they open the door. The actual words, the couple say, were, “We're the f------ police; open the f------ door.”
Dorris said he moved away from the door, afraid bullets were about to rip through.
Goldsberry was terrified but thinking it just might really be the police. Except, she says she wondered, would police talk that way? She had never been arrested or even come close. She couldn't imagine why police would be there or want to come in. But even if they did, why would they act like that at her apartment? It didn't seem right.
Then, to the couple's horror — and as Goldsberry huddled in the hallway with gun in hand — the front door they had thought was locked pushed open. A man edged around the corner and pointed a gun and a fiercely bright light at them, and yelled even more.
“Drop the f------ gun or I'll f------ shoot you,” he shouted, then said it again and again, Goldsberry and Dorris say.
Goldsberry was screaming, but Dorris was the calmer one. He could see the armed man was holding a tactical shield for protection. Some zealous gun thug could have one, but, though it was hard to see much, Dorris decided this guy looked well enough equipped to be a cop on a serious felony raid.
Dorris remained frozen and kept his hands in sight. He saw more people outside, and decided it probably was a police action. But he started fearing that in this case that was not much better than a home invasion. With his freaked out girlfriend and the macho commando-style intruder aiming at each other and shouting, someone could be dead at any second.
Dorris told the man at the door he would come outside and talk to them. When he got permission and walked out slowly, hands up, he was amazed at what he saw as he was quickly grabbed and handcuffed.
The cop at the door, and some others, had words on their clothes identifying them as federal marshals, but there were numerous Sarasota Police officers, too, and others he couldn't identify, though his security company job involves work with police.
More than two dozen officers, maybe more than 30, were bustling around, many in tactical jackets.
It was like nothing he had ever seen.
“It was a Rambo movie,” Dorris said.
Soon Dorris yelled to his girlfriend that it was OK to drop the gun and come out, but Goldsberry was too afraid.
She had been yelling, “I'm an American citizen” and saying they had no right to do this. Their standoff continued several more minutes.
Then she set the gun down and walked out, shaking and crying, and also was quickly handcuffed.
They remained cuffed for close to half an hour as the apartment was searched for a wanted man who wasn't there, never had been, and who was totally unknown to them.
They were shown his picture.
Then they were released, the police left, and that was that.
The officer's story
Matt Wiggins was the man at the door.
He's with the U.S. Marshal's fugitive division.
I asked him what happened. He said they had a tip that a child-rape suspect was at the complex.
That suspect, Kyle Riley, was arrested several hours later in another part of Sarasota.
The tip was never about Goldsberry's apartment, specifically, Wiggins acknowledged. It was about the complex.
But when the people in Goldsberry's apartment didn't open up, that told Wiggins he had probably found the right door. No one at other units had reacted that way, he said.
Maybe none of them had a gun pointed at them through the kitchen window, I suggested. But Wiggins didn't think that was much excuse for the woman's behavior. He said he acted with restraint and didn't like having that gun aimed at him.
“I went above and beyond,” Wiggins said. “I have to go home at night.”
Goldsberry was at home, I said. She had a gun pointed at her, too, and she wasn't wearing body armor and behind a shield. She had no reason to expect police or think police would ever aim into her kitchen and cuss at her through her door to get in. It seemed crazy. She was panicked.
“We were clearly the police,” Wiggins insisted. “She can't say she didn't know.”
She does say so, actually.
“I couldn't see them. They had a big light in my eyes,” Goldsberry said the next day. And that man she saw aiming a gun through her window had nothing visible that said “cop,” in her mind.
“I was thinking, is this some kind of nutjob?”
No, just a well-trained officer who knows how to go after a man assumed to be a dangerous felon, but isn't so good at understanding a frightened woman confronted with an aggressive armed stranger coming after her in her own home.
“I feel bad for her,” Wiggins conceded, finally. “But at the same time, I had to reasonably believe the bad guy was in her house based on what they were doing.”
Goldsberry wasn't arrested or shot despite pointing a gun at a cop, so Wiggins said, “She sure shouldn't be going to the press.”