Flagler Beach has not been the most welcoming city to Doug “Bruno” O’Connor, the 62-year-old former Beverly Beach city commissioner who’s been building a mansion of a house on A1A by South 27th Street, with eyes on a run for city commission there.
For about a year that he’s been building the house, he says his neighbor on the same block, Wayne L. Herboldt, has been harassing his crews “for no reason.” On Tuesday, a fence crew was at the job site, and Herboldt “tried to tell the fence guy he didn’t know what he was he was doing.” Herboldt was disputing the survey line dividing the two properties. Things got out of hand between him and O’Connor.
At one point Herboldt approached O’Connor with a knife as the two were arguing, though Herboldt dropped it after O’Connor told him to, but the two bumped chests, and Herboldt was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a felony, and battery.
But not before O’Connor was held at gunpoint: O’Connor was in the back of the construction zone, on the phone with 911. He was calling in to report the disturbance with Herboldt.
The 911 dispatcher had told him to stay on the phone until law enforcement showed up. Suddenly, there comes a cop–Flagler Beach Police officer Evan Scherr–gun drawn and yelling orders at O’Connor to drop his phone and get on his knees. “He’s pointing a gun at me, and he says get on your knees,” O’Connor said in a brief interview, “it was something like out of nightly news.”
The officer handcuffed O’Connor before realizing he had the wrong man. “It was later determined that I was misadvised of Bruno’s identity as a ‘prank,'” the officer reported, noting that one of the workers had described the assailant as a man in the backyard wearing a red shirt. (O’Connor, in disbelief at what he’d experienced–I could feel the gun pointed at my head”–said he gave a clear description of Herboldt to the dispatcher. “You could tell probably by the inexperience of the cop how he was screaming. I’m a pretty big guy. Maybe he was intimidated by my size.”)
The issue on Tuesday arose again over a dispute about the property line, as has been the case for a year, O’Connor told police. As the fence company was preparing to do its work, Herboldt, 68, came out of his house allegedly cussing out the workers and claiming they were on his property. “He was holding a large knife and attempting to harass the contractors,” his arrest report states. O’Connor asked him to leave the workers alone. The argument escalated between the two men as Herboldt got into O’Connor’s face, holding the knife and yelling obscenities.
Herboldt eventually dropped the knife after O’Connor told him to, the report states, while the argument continued. By then O’Connor believed Herboldt was ready to harm him, and sought to pursue charges.
Herboldt in his interview with officers conceded there’d been a heated argument and that he did “bump” O’Connor’s chest, but that the knife wasn’t used threateningly. He said he’d grabbed the knife to trim bushes impeding construction of O’Connor’s fence. O’Connor told him he’d have to remove the entire bush. That enraged Herboldt, he told police, so he got into O’Connor’s face, but dropped the knife. He said he had no idea why police were called.
Herboldt was booked at the Flagler County jail on a third-degree felony charge and a misdemeanor battery charge. He posted $5,500 bond and was released.
O’Connor has been attending Flagler Beach City Commission meetings in preparation for an eventual run, but he says he’s not yet ready to decide one way or another. “I have to make myself established,” he said. “I can’t run not knowing anybody and nobody knowing me. When I ran for Beverly Beach everybody knew me, my character, what I stood for. That’s what I have to do over here.”