Florida Woman Terrorized In Rambo-Like Police Raid For No Reason

Why the scene from Rambo? Was it reasonable not to give some sort of proof of who you are when you scream at someone's door? In Florida... maybe. Image @ Herald-Tribune

Why the scene from Rambo? Was it reasonable not to give some sort of proof of who you are when you scream at someone’s door? In Florida… maybe. Image @ Herald-Tribune

Stories of jack-booted thugs are usually apocryphal or part of WWII narratives. But they have become increasingly and disturbingly more common here in the second decade of the 21st century in America. Police brutality appears to be on the upswing, a sad and dangerous trend. Florida has a rate of 7-12 incidents of misconduct per 1,000 officers. They can add this latest overzealous act to that total.

Tom Lyons of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that on July 17th, Louise Goldsberry of Sarasota, Florida had just begun to wash her dishes when her rights were violated. Ms. Goldsberry works as an operating room scrub nurse and had just finished a relaxing dinner with her boyfriend. Suddenly, she saw a man in what looked to her to be a hunting vest outside her window aiming a laser-guided rifle at her face. She screamed and dropped to the floor. Then she crawled to her bedroom, where she retrieved her .38-caliber revolver. As a single woman living alone, Ms. Goldsberry had purchased the gun and received a concealed carry permit. It made her feel safer.

As she returned to the living room, there was a man yelling at the door for it to be opened. He claimed he was a police officer but that did not jibe with what Ms. Goldsberry thought she had seen outside her window. Her boyfriend, Craig Dorris, asked to see some identification, not an outlandish request and one that should have been honored. But the voice demanded the door be opened, yelling:

“We’re the fucking police; open the fucking door.”

The couple was frightened and confused. Doriss said that he expected bullets to come through the door and he moved aside. Just then, the door was pushed open and a man pointed a gun and bright flashlight at them. Seeing Ms. Goldsberry’s gun, he ordered her to drop it. At this point, Mr. Doriss saw the man’s attire and decided that he was, after all, an officer. He asked if he could come outside to talk and was given permission. As soon as he stepped outside, he was grabbed and handcuffed. Doriss was amazed to see over two dozen officers from different jurisdictions, many in full tactical gear. He called to his girlfriend that it was safe to come out but she was too scared, repeating that she was an American citizen and they had no right to do what they were doing. The standoff lasted several minutes during which Doriss was terrified that Ms. Goldsberry would be shot. Finally, she was convinced to put the gun down and come outside… where she was immediately grabbed and handcuffed.

Why the scene from Rambo? The police told her they were looking for a man who had been traced to the apartment complex in Hidden Lake Village. Not her apartment specifically, just the complex. The officer who entered her dwelling like some kind of commando was Matt Wiggins of the U.S. Marshall’s fugitive division. When Lyons spoke to him, Officer Wiggins admitted that the man they were looking for, a child rape suspect, was not even in that complex. He was arrested in another part of the city.  But, Wiggins explained, the fact that Ms. Goldsberry and Mr. Doriss didn’t immediately throw open their door made him think that they’d found where the suspect was hiding. And, gosh, nobody else had refused to open their door. Lyons writes:

“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… 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.”

Wiggins went on to say that it was clear that they were the police. But it wasn’t very clear to a frightened woman who was being shouted at and having a gun and  bright light aimed in her face. Nothing felt cop-like to Louise Goldsberry, from being targeted with a laser beam to being reduced to cowering in her own home. Officer Wiggins could have acted with a bit more restraint.

“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.”

Really? Was it reasonable not to give some sort of proof of who you are when you scream at someone’s door? We are told, over and over again, not to let strangers into our homes, to ask for identification, to call 911 and confirm it. The escalation came from Officer Wiggins. When he was asked for that I.D., he chose instead to scream obscenities. Would it really have been so hard to just knock on the door – after all, they had no reason to believe that the man they were looking for was in the apartment – show them a picture of the man they were searching for and ask if they’d seen him? If their behavior was suspicious at all it was in response to Wiggins’ actions. He had no right to assume criminal activity because he was asked to identify himself. Then he had the nerve to say that she shouldn’t have gone to the press!

We are told that our homes are our castles, that they are sacrosanct. We are told that police cannot legally enter it without due cause and a warrant to do so. We’ve been told a lot of things, one of which is that we have rights that are not to be trampled even by the authorities. Well, there goes another fairy tale. Welcome to the burgeoning police state.