–By Rachel Galvin–
At 3 p.m. April 29, Kendall Coffey, attorney for Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes, gave a press conference at the home of the judge’s sister, Carmita Scarlett, in which he announced that the judge “would not initiate civil action” at this time.
This is in response to an incident that happened on Easter Sunday in which Broward Sheriff’s officers, thinking they were responding to a burglary in progress, investigated the wrong home, demanding the family members, who had just finished Easter dinner, to leave the home. (See original complete story also in Breaking News, including 9-11 call).
But what Scarlett saw was a man knocking on her window with a flashlight and she feared for her life, not knowing if it was a criminal intending to harm her. So she told her sister, the judge, who happened to be armed. The judge said time and again who she was and announced she was armed. Coffey demonstrated how she carried the gun out of the home at her side, laid it on the ground, announcing that she was putting the gun down. In her other hand, she held a cell phone, and when she went to put that down, announcing what she was doing, they yelled at her to step away from the gun, according to Coffey.
Coffey reiterated that the Judge was only taking prudent steps in this incident and that she was not confrontational in any way and is a respected judge, adding that many judges are armed.
“In the midst of a potentially dangerous situation, she acted prudently,” he said, adding “Judge Holmes is hopeful steps will be taken proactively to avoid incidents like this in the future.
Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, who also issued an apology to Judge Ilona Holmes in a statement on April 28, also felt his men acted appropriately, but regrets the misunderstanding and the unfortunate events that took place.
The Sheriff said, “This past Sunday, the Broward Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a home burglary in progress from a concerned citizen who provided incorrect information regarding the home address. On scene, the deputies continued to receive incorrect information from the citizen and, based upon this information, believed they were at the correct address.
“A report of a burglary in progress at a residence is an extremely dangerous and tense situation for law enforcement, which requires an assertive response. The Broward Sheriff’s Office is evaluating the circumstances of this incident to ensure that appropriate response procedures were followed.
“We deeply regret that Judge Holmes and her family went through this experience and understand that this incident, resulting from a series of unfortunate events, may have been traumatic for them.”
The judge and her family appreciated it, but Scarlett feels that officers at BSO need sensitivity training, feeling that race may have been a factor in the amount of force used in the incident.
“I don’t think crime has a color to it,” said Scarlett. “They need sensitivity classes. The chief explained to me that he has some good cops. I agree. But they were not the same cops who came to my house.”
Scarlett was joined by members of her family and her neighbor Pastor George Brown, whose home was the correct address where BSO should have been investigating, the home where a neighbor saw lights going on and off and, knowing Brown was not home, called BSO fearing burglars were in the residence.
“We still don’t know why [the lights were going on and off],” said Brown.
Scarlett said that their neighborhood is one in which “everyone has keys to everyone else’s homes. We watch out for each other. It’s old fashioned…”