Last Updated: Wednesday, 12:31 p.m.
Bunnell police is investigating an incident that took place early Tuesday morning in front of Larry’s Guns, the store near the corner of State Road 100 and U.S. 1, as a woman was burning belongings in a small fire she had started.
Bunnell Police Chief Dave Brannon said the incident does not appear to be politically motivated even though for a moment a campaign sign was in or near the flames and got singed on its sides.
Rather, the woman was “setting some of her own property on fire,” Brannon said. “She told the officer she figured if she started a fire, she’d get the police’s attention.” The woman told the officer that her car had broken down on nearby State Road 11, and she wanted the police’s help.
The woman “was evaluated to determine if she met Baker Act criteria,” the police chief said. She did not meet the criteria. The investigation is continuing to determine whether she may face criminal charges.
The incident took place around 2:46 a.m. A short surveillance video clip provided by Larry Beighle, owner of Larry’s Guns, shows the woman dumping what looks like individual sheets of paper or fliers, or cards, into the fire, a step down from the narrow sidewalk in front of the store. She is standing right over the fire, whose flames are a few inches high but active.
Based on the dashcam of a law enforcement officer (both the Sheriff’s Office and Bunnell police responded, with Bunnell in the lead), the woman was burning small items as a law enforcement officer pulled up. An officer grabs a fire extinguisher and puts out the fire in seconds as she pulls away what appears to be a political sign. The conversation that followed between the officers and the woman is not audible. The woman has a couple of bags with her, and is seen cooperating with the officers.
She was not arrested, and at the end of the nearly half-hour, almost entirely uneventful video, she is seen picking up some of the material she’d burned, as if to throw it away, then placing it right back in the pile. She also picked up the political sign, which belonged to Jill Woolbright, the school board member, and placed it alongside another belonging to Will Furry.
An incident and an arrest report were released Wednesday, detailing the incident. The woman, a 44-year-old resident of Eustis, “stated she was attempting to get law enforcement’s attention because she was afraid and needed help,” the report states, and “even went to the point of saying she hoped to be taken to jail because she was afraid she was going to be raped and she wanted to get off the streets.” The woman “admitted to using methamphetamine and stated she knew starting the fire was wrong.” She had used the political sign only to fan flames, the report states.
“Bonfires are common and without other factors present, it did not appear as if [the woman] started the fire with malicious or nefarious intent,” the reports state. The reporting officer continued: “It does not seem like it was her intent to violate the bonfire law, nor to damage any property. Based on my interview of the subject, I did not believe this met the criteria for a loitering and prowling or a criminal mischief offense.” She was charged with a misdemeanor, but not arrested.
Her car was on State Road 100. When officers gave her a courtesy ride there, she acted “paranoid,” as if someone was following her. Later that day, the woman went to the store and offered a bag of Skittles in apology to the owner.
Larry’s Guns at 101 South State Street (or U.S. 1) is a long-standing business owned by Beighle since around 2011, and managed by Kirk Chong, who is married to another school board candidate, Christy Chong, whose signs were not anywhere visible.