Prosecutor speaks of fears of threats

Safety a concern after Texas district attorney, wife killed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda has spent 30 years going after criminals and says several of them have threatened to come after him.

"I've had people call the house, threaten myself and my family, but you just have to live with it," he said.

But what de la Rionda is having trouble living with is the evidence that someone may actually follow through.

He and his fellow prosecutors are very concerned about what happened in Texas over the weekend, where a district attorney and his wife were shot dead in their own home.

"What a horrific event. Everybody can relate to it," de la Rionda said. "You do your job to the best of your ability, but you're always mindful in the back of your mind that you may be one of the targets one day."

Right now, to get into the state attorney's office, one has to pass through a metal detector and show a driver's license. But once prosecutors leave the building, it's every man and woman for themselves.

De la Rionda says the attacks are yet another reason why prosecutors in Florida should be better protected.

It's a belief not shared by Harry Shorstein, who served five terms as state attorney until 2009.

"I think if you were to make changes in response to the incident or perhaps two connected incidents in Texas, I think it would be a great mistake," Shorstein said.

He said he's dealt with his share of threats, but "the public must understand that it's significantly less dangerous than being a taxi driver or a convenience store operator."

Shorstein is staunchly opposed to the idea of adding a walkover between what will be the new state attorney's office and the new courthouse.

His former co-worker says that walkover is not only imperative, it's also personal.

"Because we've got to take evidence, including firearms, drugs, other stuff, and just besides our personal safety," de la Rionda said. "We're subjected to all kinds of threats on a daily basis. I think our lives are worth something."

State Attorney Angela Corey is fighting hard for the walkway to the courthouse, but it's far from a done deal.

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