In this country, a police search should never feel like a home invasion, yet that’s exactly what happened Wednesday at the Sarasota home of a 59-year-old surgical scrub nurse.
At about 8 p.m., Louise Goldsberry was washing dishes in her apartment kitchen while her boyfriend, Craig Dorris, a security alarm company manager, relaxed in the living room. Suddenly, Goldsberry screamed and dropped to the floor after seeing a man “wearing a hunting vest” and aiming a pistol with its laser sight’s red dot pinpointed on her face, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Goldsberry scrambled into her bedroom and grabbed her .38-caliber revolver. At about the same time, a man claiming to be a police officer ordered her to open the front door.
Goldsberry’s boyfriend yelled out that he wanted to see some ID first, but instead of offering it, the man at the door kept screaming, “We’re the f—— police; open the f—— door.”
Goldsberry told the newspaper the man in the window looked more like a thug and she didn’t think police don’t use language like that. And she knew she had done nothing wrong.
That’s when the nightmare got worse. The front door, which they thought had been locked, opened, and a man appeared with both gun and light aimed at Goldsberry, who had her own pistol pointed at the door.
“Drop the f—— gun or I’ll f—— shoot you,” the man, wearing tactical gear, repeatedly shouted, Dorris and Goldsberry told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Dorris soon made his way outside with arms raised, where he was greeted by as many as 30 law enforcement officers, including federal marshals, who quickly frisked and handcuffed him.
Goldsberry, too, was handcuffed and her apartment was searched for a fugitive who wasn’t there and the couple said they had never heard of or seen before.
The police then left. But that’s only half the story.
The man at the door was U.S. Marshal Matt Wiggins, who was acting on a tip that a suspected child rapist was holed up somewhere in Goldsberry’s apartment complex. Goldsberry’s over-the-top reaction led officers to believe they had found the right place. Other residents opened their doors without hesitation, Wiggins told the paper.
The Herald-Tribune’s Tom Lyons reported:
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.”
He insisted everything was by the book.
“We were clearly the police,” Wiggins said. “She can’t say she didn’t know.”
“I couldn’t see them. They had a big light in my eyes,” Goldsberry said the following day. Then there was the abusive language and refusal to present ID. “I was thinking, is this some kind of nut job?”
“I feel bad for her,” Wiggins finally conceded. “But at the same time, I had to reasonably believe the bad guy was in her house based on what they were doing.”
The fugitive, incidentally, was arrested later in another part of town.
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