A 94-year-old Florida woman was forcibly dragged to jail for refusing to leave her home (video below).
Authorities and property orders have asserted that the elderly pensioner had not paid her rent for months, had declined offers for assistance, and was uncooperative with law enforcement.
On Dec. 13, Eustis Police officers arrived at the National Church Residences' Franklin House to remove Juanita Fitzgerald after she was evicted. The officers' report stated that Fitzgerald refused to leave the residence, according to WFTV.
"After several times telling Juanita to get her belongings and leave, she refused officers' commands [and] stated, 'Unless you carry me out of here, I'm not going anywhere,'" the report read.
Body camera footage of the incident showed Fitzgerald flailing as the officers hauled her from the ground and into the police car. The officers recounted that Fitzgerald purposefully slid onto the floor and resisted help to get back up. She was not handcuffed to avoid bruising.
Fitzgerald was held at the Lake County Jail on a $500 bond. She turned 94 on Dec. 15. She was released without having to pay her bond but will have to appear in court on Dec. 27 to face a charge for trespassing.
Karen Twinem of National Church Residences said that Fitzgerald had lived at the Franklin House since April 2011 but had refused to pay rent for three months. Twinem asserted that the pensioner had declined to pay because she believed she would die soon and because she had mold in her apartment. A screening of the residence found no trace of mold, WKMG reports.
Twinem added that several officials had offered help Fitzgerald find new living arrangements or contact her family, but she reportedly refused any assistance.
Terri Goldberg, a fellow resident in the building, said: "I feel like everything was done that could possibly be done to help her, I feel a lot of this was brought on herself."
During an interview at the jailhouse, Fitzgerald said she had tried to pay her rent but was blocked. She said that Twinem's account was a fabrication and explained why she refused help.
"I don't have anybody," Fitzgerald said. "My family is in Tennessee and I told them not to tell my son anything that's going on ... I don't want them to help me."
Fitzgerald pointed upward and added: "I've got all the help I need."
B.E. Thompson of the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition voiced concern regarding how Fitzgerald's eviction and arrest were carried out.
"I think obviously we're all disappointed that the result so far is an incarcerated almost-94-year-old as a result of an eviction," Thompson told the Orlando Sentinel.
Senior consumer services analyst Chris Provenzano of the Florida attorney general's office said he had directly dealt with Fitzgerald since December 2014. He described the elderly woman as level-headed and "very opinionated."
"She would not give us any information about her family; she did not want to get her family involved," Provenzano said.
The analyst added that Fitzgerald told him in October that she had offered the property manager rent and was refused.
"She kept stating that everything she tried ... they kept running her around in circles," Provenzano said.