Florida authorities released an elderly woman from jail on Thursday after police arrested her when she allegedly refused to leave her home in a senior housing community after being evicted.
Juanita Fitzgerald spent her 94th birthday Friday in a motel room, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The day before, she had been released from Florida’s Lake County Jail, which is where police took her after she was evicted from her home at the National Church Residences’ Franklin House in Eustis. The facility accused her of refusing to leave.
Clad in an orange jumpsuit, Fitzgerald told WFTV reporters earlier this week that she did not understand why she was being evicted. She had lived there since 2011.
Bodycam footage from the arrest showed her screaming and sliding to the ground in an apparent attempt to avoid being taken away. A police report obtained by The Miami Herald noted that Fitzgerald had told officers, “Unless you carry me out of here, I’m not going anywhere.”
Franklin House spokeswoman Karen Twinem told the Sentinel that Fitzgerald was evicted “based on her refusal to pay rent” and that the complex had been trying to work with Fitzgerald “for months” to “get her to agree to get more help so she could live in a situation that was more suitable.”
Fitzgerald countered that she had previously attempted to pay rent that the facility rejected, though Twinem has said Fitzgerald only presented a partial rent payment.
The police report stated that Fitzgerald was transported to jail without handcuffs because of her age. However, she can be seen wearing handcuffs and ankle restraints at the jail in an on-camera interview with WCMH-TV. Her wrists and forearms appear deeply bruised.
After her release, she showed the Sentinel bruises and scratches on her ankles that she said were from the prison shackles. A jail spokeswoman told the site that it was typical for inmates to wear restraints, but could not confirm anything specifically about Fitzgerald’s situation.
Fitzgerald was released from jail on her own recognizance on Thursday. Since then, she’s been meeting with the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition to find permanent housing.
This story has been updated to note that Fitzgerald can be seen on camera wearing restraints at the jail.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Fitzgerald was arrested for allegedly refusing to pay rent. She was arrested for allegedly refusing to leave her home when she was evicted.
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