Staying safe while dealing with an eviction

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After two police officers shot and killed a man at an apartment complex on Jacksonville's Westside while helping with an eviction, the question of safety has highlighted the murky waters of rental evictions.

The two police officers encountered 28-year-old D'Angelo Stallworth as they were helping with an eviction at another apartment in the Planters Walk Apartment Complex Tuesday morning.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said officers who help with those evictions need to be ready for anything.

Smith, who used to work as an officer dealing with evictions, said that most of the time the tenants have already left after being served with an eviction notice but he said sometimes people haven't left and although he's never had a violent experience, you never know what to expect when entering someone's home.

Emotions can run quite high when having to deal with an eviction but Colleen Gelman, a managing broker for The Property Manager, said she always follows one rule.

"I certainly wouldn't go in without a policeman being there to clear it," Gelman said.

It's a smart idea Smith said, because violence is a possibility.

"In most cases it's not a problem. I only had a few instances where the person refused to vacate the premises. At that point I would call for backup units, get other officers there, and they would pack their things up and leave," Smith said.

Gelman said she usually gives a three-day eviction notice and if your stuff isn't out by then, she usually brings her handyman in and he starts taking your stuff for you.

Sometimes that can cause hostility which Gelman said has happened with a former tenant.

"She tried to argue with the officer and he kept saying, "Ma'am, no matter what anyone has told you, you are to be out of this property today." He made her leave in her car. Nothing happened, we didn't have any problem with her, we just had to move all her stuff out," Gelman said.

The situation with 28-year-old D'Angelo Stallworth and the two officers on the Westside Tuesday is still under investigation but Smith said that answer into the justification of the shooting should come out soon.

"Safety is always the most important thing. Safety for the residents and safety for myself. I never had a situation where they pulled a gun on me. I really can't tell if they did the right thing or not. That really comes down to the investigation," Smith said.