Update: Body camera footage of a 93-year-old woman’s arrest was just released showing the horrifying moments the elderly woman was roughed up by police.
Police in Eustis, Florida, released bodycam footage showing senior Juanita Fitzgerald forcibly taken into custody for failing to heed an eviction notice after allegedly falling short on rent. “They wouldn’t treat a murderer like they treated me,” she told WFTV Channel 9.
Original story below.
Eustis, FL — In spite of the myriad of shelters and government programs to help homeless and elderly people in Florida, police force was used against a 93-year-old woman who was kidnapped and caged over a rent discrepancy in her independent living facility.
Juanita Fitzgerald, who turned 94 on Friday, was arrested this week and booked into the Lake County Jail for an alleged trespassing violation. According to the facility in which Fitzgerald was living, she refused to pay rent for the last three months—so she was evicted, arrested, and jailed.
However, according to Fitzgerald, she says she tried to pay her rent but they wouldn’t take it.
Fitzgerald told NEWS 6 that she tried to pay rent in October and was refused. She said the Franklin House offered her assistance and tried to find her another home, but she refused and she has refused help from her own family.
Karen Twinem, with National Church Residences, which owns the Franklin House where Fitzgerald has lived since April 2011, told NEWS 6 that Fitzgerald stopped paying rent three months ago because she thought she was going to die soon. This is a claim Fitzgerald denies.
Fitzgerald said she complained about mold in her apartment and says they refused to remove it. The Franklin House denies the existence of said mold.
According to NEWS 6, Twinem said officials contacted the 93-year-old woman’s family several times to try to get her help and even reached out to several agencies, including the Homeless Coalition, LiveStream Behavior Center, the United Way of Lake County, Family and Children’s Services of Lake County, the Area Agency on Aging and several other apartments and transitional housing programs. Twinem said Fitzgerald refused all the assistance offered.
93 year old Juanita Fitzgerald says she tried to pay her rent but was refused. Says she did not tell them she was dying to get out of paying rent. She says that's a lie! Also says she's never been arrested before but has faith God will get her through! News 6 WKMG / ClickOrlando pic.twitter.com/JjE4wifKlx
— Adrianna Iwasinski (@AIwasinski) December 14, 2017
Because Fitzgerald wanted to stay in the apartment, police were then called in to remove her. According to court documents, Fitzgerald was in the lobby when police arrived and refused to move.
Police claim the elderly woman resisted at every step of the way. According to police, Fitzgerald allegedly told them “Unless you carry me out of here, I’m not going anywhere.”
Police claim the frail and elderly woman deliberately slid out of her chair and onto the floor in order to make the officers’ jobs harder.
Police eventually picked her up and carried her out of the facility and booked her into jail. Fitzgerald would spend the next two days locked in a cage and shackled to a wheel chair.
Body camera footage shows Eustis officers and Lake County sheriff’s deputies attempting to get Eustis into a police car. With their hands around her arms, the officers assure her they are applying no pressure, as she is heard screaming that she is in pain. She was then transported without handcuffs, police told WKMG.
Although police claimed they did not handcuff her because of her age, video and photos were posted to Facebook clearly showing the elderly woman in handcuffs, shackles and an orange jumpsuit with disturbing bruisers along her arms.
“There is something startling about seeing a 93-year-old in handcuffs,” David Begnaud said.
“I don’t want them to help me. I don’t need no help. I’ve got all the help I need,” Fitzgerald said.
“I don’t have anybody. My family is in Tennessee and I told them not to tell my son anything that’s going on,” Fitzgerald said.
Just snapped this picture of 93-year-old Juanita Fitzgerald as she left jail with a caregiver. She spent 2 nights in jail on trespassing charges when she refused to leave her apartment after being evicted. pic.twitter.com/HWy1bkysMF
— Len Kiese WFTV (@LenKieseTV) December 14, 2017
In another interview, upon her release, Fitzgerald showed bruises on her arms and said to WFTV, “Now, can you imagine anybody doing that to an old woman?”
“They wouldn’t treat a murderer like they treated me,” she added.