A disabled man in Broward County, Florida, found himself in a life-threatening situation last month while sheriff’s deputies waited not far away and refused to intervene.
Bill Norkunas was awoken in the middle of the night to a man beating on his door and smashing his front windows with a brick. Norkunas, who suffers from polio and needs crutches to get around, grabbed his Glock handgun and called 911, but deputies refused to apprehend the man even after arriving on the scene. Dispatchers told Norkunas that deputies were “setting up a perimeter.”
“He started kicking the door, so I took the handgun I have … and I pointed it right at his face,” Norkunas told NBC 6. “And he looked right at it. He reached down and picked up a brick and he started smashing the door in.”
“All the while, I’ve got 911 on my cell phone, and I’m looking down the road, and no deputies. Nobody came.”
Norkunas’ experience left him with one simple piece of advice: “Don’t depend on 911. Have a backup plan.”
As the man stood naked and on crutches, pointing a gun towards the man beating in his front door, he pleaded with dispatchers to send help.
“I’ve got crutches and a handgun and a crazy man trying to get inside to kill me,” Norkunas said. “And I kept pleading, please, send the sheriff’s deputies, and not one sheriff’s deputy came down that street.”
Some of Norkunas’ neighbors also called 911, and they were given the same message.
“I’ve been on the phone with you for six minutes,” next-door neighbor Kim Ehly is heard saying in a 911 call. “This guy could’ve been in my house and (expletive) hurt me by now.”
“Supposedly they were setting up a perimeter, and the thing that I was saying was, while you all are setting up a perimeter, we could be injured by this guy,” Ehly said.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office issued a milquetoast statement about the incident promising a “thorough review.”
“Within days of the incident in Tamarac, the Broward Sheriff’s Office began a thorough review into how the deputies on scene handled the response to this fluid and rapidly evolving situation,” the statement read. “The review into this incident is ongoing. The Broward Sheriff’s Office responds to tens of thousands of calls for service each year. The vast majority of these calls are handled appropriately with satisfactory outcomes. BSO constantly reviews and assesses its responses to emergency calls in order to provide the highest level of service to the public.”
Norkunas never fired his pistol, and the suspect, 23-year-old Timothy Johnson, left the premises before harming any residents. He was arrested by police when he walked down the street.
The experience left Norkunas with a badly shaken confidence in his local law enforcement.
“This was life-threatening,” Norkunas said. “And if the sheriff is not gonna come when it’s life-threatening, when will they come?”