U.S. Marshals terrorize Sarasota woman by mistake

Agents held innocent victim at gunpoint

SARASOTA, Fla. - It never occurred to Louise Goldsberry that washing dishes in her kitchen and minding her own business could suddenly turn into a home invasion where she was held at gunpoint and locked in handcuffs.  

And the home invaders were law enforcement officers.  

"It looked like Rambo," said Goldsberry, 59, as she recalled the terrifying event.  She noticed a military-style officer wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying a high-powered rifle outside her window.  That's when Goldsberry ran to her bedroom to grab her .38 caliber pistol.

A SWAT officer from the U.S. Marshal's Service had forced his way into her unit at Hidden Lake Village Condominiums, and ordered her to drop her weapon.

"They started yelling, 'Put the f-ing gun down!  This is the f-ing police!  Put the gun down or I'm going to shoot you and kill you,'" Goldsberry said.

With a rifle barrel in her face, and a bright light in her eyes, Goldsberry said it was impossible to tell if the men were truly law enforcement officers.

"They never showed us ID," said Goldsberry.  "They said that they were federal marshals and they didn't have to tell us anything and they didn't need any warrants and they didn't need anything.  Period."

Goldsberry's boyfriend, Craig Dorris, who was also at the apartment during the home invasion, told her he could see that the men were wearing uniforms.  Goldsberry put down her revolver and surrendered.

"I was shaky, scared," Goldsberry said.  "When I went out they cuffed me and left me cuffed for 30 minutes while they finished their investigation," she said.

The federal marshals apparently found no reason to arrest Goldsberry or anyone else at that location.  She was released without any charges.

Goldsberry said the ordeal was the most frightening thing she's experienced.

"I was sitting there behind my wall with my gun on my lap, my dog on my lap, crying and going 'I'm almost 60 years old.  I've never in my life experienced anything like this,'" Goldsberry said.  "How can this happen?  I was just completely bewildered."

U.S. Marshal's spokesman Ron Linback said his office was aware of the incident, and the case was part of an internal investigation that's being handled at the agency's headquarters in Washington, DC.  

Goldsberry said she wants to know if the federal agents broke any laws by barging into her house without a warrant.

"I would want this to happen to nobody else," she said.  "It's shocking.  I could have been killed.  I feel if my boyfriend hadn't been there as a witness I would have been killed," Goldsberry said.

The surgical technologist said she realized that she put her life at risk when the officers saw her with a firearm.  Goldsberry said if she had mistaken the officers for criminals and opened fire, they surely would have fired back.

"They didn't apologize to me," Goldsberry said, wondering if any of the marshals would be held accountable for the mistake.  And while it may have looked like an action film during the incident, it's a role she hopes she'll never reprise.

"It was a bad movie," she said.

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