DEERFIELD BEACH — An Easter Sunday get-together by a Broward County circuit judge and her family turned into a nightmare when they were held at gunpoint by Broward Sheriff’s deputies who were responding to a burglary call at the wrong house.
Although Judge Ilona Holmes identified herself to deputies, they ordered the family to come out of the house and lie on the ground.
Holmes was visiting the Deerfield Beach home of her sister Carmita Scarlett when deputies surrounded the property with guns drawn, yelling for them to come out with their hands up, family members told South Florida Times.
Scarlett and her husband Neville were entertaining guests at dinner and he was putting away the dishes around 8:30 p.m. when she received a call from a neighbor telling her police had been called over a suspected burglary at another home.
“When I got the call, we started closing down the blinds and making sure everything was locked,” Scarlett said. “That’s when I saw a guy at my kitchen window, with a flashlight, pointing a gun at me. He hit the window and started yelling for me to come out with my hands up.”
Scarlett said she screamed, “Someone is going to shoot me!” Holmes, who had a gun at her side, ran to her sister’s aid and asked the man who he was.
The deputy indentified himself and Holmes informed him she is a Circuit Court judge and advised him that she was armed. The family told deputies they are the homeowners and that the officers were at the wrong house.
Still, the deputies continued to order the family outside with their hands up. After they came out of the house, the deputies ordered them to lie on the ground but they did not comply.
Holmes continued identifying herself as a judge. She told the deputies she was coming out and would place her weapon on the ground. As she came out through a side door, deputies began yelling, “Put the gun down!” After she placed her gun on the grass, they yelled, “Get away from the gun” and “Get on the ground.”
Holmes again identified herself as a judge and explained that she has a bad back and therefore unable to lie on the ground.
At that point, the family was being held at gunpoint with their hands in the air. The Scarletts’ 16-year-old daughter Kiana was escorted outside at gunpoint.
One of the deputies recognized Holmes and told her she could put her hands down.
A neighbor said she too told deputies they were at the wrong address but they continued to search the house.
“I told one of them they had the wrong house and he went to tell the rest of them,” said Diandra Evans, a neighbor who witnessed the incident. “They owe them an apology because they made a mistake.”
A source said Holmes made phone calls to Sheriff Al Lamberti’s office immediately following the incident but her call has not been returned.
She declined comment when contacted by South Florida Times, referring calls to her lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey. “We have been assured that the matter will be appropriately reviewed and have no further comments at this time,” Coffey said in an e-mail.
BSO’s media relations office did not respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
Scarlett said she has been unable to sleep since the incident and now lives in fear of the police.
“I kept asking them, ‘Why are you at my house? I am the homeowner,’” she said. “But they didn’t want to hear it and were very nasty and I don’t know what they will do now.”
The deputies eventually left but returned to the home for unexplained reasons and another heated exchange took place, the family said.
“One of them told me the only thing he was concerned with was [their] safety,” Carmita Scarlett said, fighting back tears as she spoke to a reporter. “They made a mistake and I thought they were coming back to apologize – but they said they were upset with us.”
Pictured Above: Neville and Carmita Scarlett and daughter Kiana Carle. Below: Judge Ilona Holmes.