Gerry Sanders was just taking a jog at John Prince Park in Lake Worth. It was a regular routine of his. But in January of 2007 that jog turned in to a nightmare when he was chased by police and arrested for loitering in a public restroom. Sanders’ police report is just one of the more than 300 reports SFGN examined over the course of the last year. His is the most outrageous. Even though it’s now 2012, Sanders is still worried about retaliation from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and did not want his real name used for this article.
This is his story.
Sanders was taking a jog like any other day. He stopped at one of the restrooms to wash his face and immediately noticed something wasn’t right.
Two men, who were already in the restroom, were acting suspicious. Sanders put himself on guard and acted cautiously because, he said, he was afraid of getting robbed. He walked into a stall and washed his hands. Then he quickly exited. The police report confirms that part, but notes Sanders did not use the stall, a fact that Sanders doesn’t dispute. He contends that he was in the restroom to wash his face because he’d been running and simply was taking a short break.
“The one cop backed up and bent down to tie his shoes. I thought they were going to jump me and rob me,” he said. “I stayed stationary to see what they were going to do. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Finally, in what Sanders said was just a matter of minutes, he left the building, but before he did he pointed up to a “no loitering” sign hanging above the doorway and then pointed at the undercover detective. That detail was also recorded in the police report.
After the detective left the restroom he got into his car and started following Sanders through the park. The report then detailed a strange stop-and-go chase by the detective through the park. At that point the detective still had not identified himself as a law enforcement official.
Finally, Sanders drove out of the park and even ran a stoplight to get away from, who he thought, was someone attempting to rob him. He decided to pull back in the park, where the park administration office is located. It was only then that the detectives finally revealed themselves.
The report said that because Sanders was a “flight risk” he had to be handcuffed and transported back to the park office. The detective also accused him of being uncooperative and hostile and stated that he was “not forthcoming w/his information or explaining his actions.”
Sanders said most of the police report is accurate but said it doesn’t give the reasons why he acted the way he did. He admits he was mad, because for one he didn’t understand what was going on. When he finally learned what was happening, he was even angrier – after all, he thought he was being followed to be potentially robbed, not arrested for loitering in a public restroom.
He told SFGN that when the undercover detective started following him it reinforced the notion that someone was trying to rob him. So he tried his best to get away, and that’s why he ran the stoplight and pulled back into the park administration’s lot because he thought he’d be safe. One detail, though, he said is missing from the report is that when he pulled back in to the park the other officer intercepted him and actually pulled a gun on him.
“I had no clue he was a cop,” he said. “I thought they were robbing me.”
After he was taken back to the office, he said Detective Lazar accused him of looking for sex. Sanders, who is straight and has a girlfriend, admitted he mouthed off and said, “If that was the case, it wouldn’t be with you.”
Detective Lazar though continued to press him on the matter, but Sanders said he refused to submit to backing in to a story, which according to him, was a complete fantasy.
To top it off, the detective also wrote him a ticket for running the stoplight.
Because of financial reasons at the time he decided to not fight the charges. Now he regrets that decision.