ATTACKED IN FORT LAUDERDALE…TWICE

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Ft. Lauderdale police were awesome!



AUTHOR’S NOTE: THIS STORY WAS UPDATED ON 4/26/2019. SEE THE VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM FOR A RECAP OF THE COURTROOM PROCEEDINGS.

BRAZEN THEFT

It was a gorgeous Florida day in October, so I decided to walk to the bank. My path was along the beach in Fort Lauderdale, and then I turned onto Sunrise Blvd; a very busy street. However, there weren’t any people on the sidewalk when a young black man suddenly walked right up to me and tried to snatch my iPhone right out of my hand! In broad daylight… at noon!!!

I’m no victim, so I chose to fight him, and I lost my shoe in the process as I wrestled for control of my phone. Unfortunately, I was no match for this belligerent jerk. He twisted my finger painfully and threw me onto the sidewalk before running off through a crowded tourist area.

CALL TO ACTION

Undaunted, I jumped up and began yelling: “Black man, white tank top stole my phone!!” I screamed out his description as I ran after him, wearing one shoe. To my surprise, everyone on the sidewalk mobilized to help me!

I watched the thief actually implicate another man, similarly dressed, in the crime. And when I saw heroic strangers running towards the wrong guy, I screamed, “NO! NOT HIM!” Then I saw one man run behind the real criminal as he took off towards the beach.

While I was standing there, wondering what to do next, the man who had been falsely accused gave me HIS phone to call 9-1-1, which I did! He even let me walk away with it to find my other shoe. And truth be told, he looked just as imposing as the guy who stole my phone, but he was SO KIND to me! It was like the good one cancelled out the bad one!

SHOCKING REACTION FROM BYSTANDERS 

Once I had the police on the phone, I can’t tell you how many people on the sidewalk told me that they also had called 9-1-1! It was amazing, and despite what had just happened, I suddenly felt so safe!

Another woman who works at a local tattoo parlor ran out and said she recognized the scum who stole my phone—he had tried to do the same to her!

She then gave me her phone to activate the “find my phone” location feature on my iPhone as the police arrived. They asked me to “ding” my phone, and voila—the criminal was nabbed!

A wonderful policeman gave me the “VIP” treatment by putting on his lights as he drove me to the area where they found my phone. The guy had thrown it into a grassy lot. I cowered in the police cruiser as they asked me to identify the man they had just apprehended. 

Then, I was driven to the police department to give my statement. I also got fingerprinted, so they would know which prints were mine and which belonged to the perp.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER CRIME

A similar situation happened to me just 8 months before; when two black men tried to steal my purse in front of the Swimming Hall of Fame. At least, that’s what I thought they were after!

All I had in my bag were three copies of my book, Like It Was Yesterday – A Journalist’s Files Since 9/11. (Calling myself a “book-hooker”, I often sell signed copies to the tourists.)  My cell phone was in my hand, because I was talking on the phone at the time.

I remember thinking that I could easily let them have the bag of books–wouldn’t they be surprised! But then I went into beast mode, and I was ANGRY!

“They get NOTHING from me!” flashed through my mind as I stubbornly held onto my bag;  the two large men literally dragging me into a parking lot. The whole time, I was screaming at the top of my lungs, “CALL 9-1-1!!!”

A GAME-CHANGER

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, this white car drives up! While I’m fighting the two men off, I’m thinking OMG! THEY’RE NOT PULLING ME INTO THAT CAR!

I suddenly understood that if I let them drag me into that car, it would likely be the end of my life. 

My boyfriend can attest to how loud I was, because he was on the phone with me at the time! He heard me screaming, but he had no way of knowing that something was happening TO me. He just heard me going nuts.

So I’m fighting off these two twenty-something animals, and I could see the one guy’s big, moon-pie face almost grimacing at me with this look of abject fear, because I was SO loud!  I also seemed to be freakishly strong as I hung onto my bag and my phone and screamed like an absolute banshee!

The doors to the white car opened, and the one guy let go of me and scrambled in. Moon-pie appeared to be quite frustrated that I would not give in and go quietly, and he callously threw me to the ground with angry force. He jumped into the car right before it sped away. 

As my body flew across the pavement, I knew my head was going to hit hard, so I tried to brace myself for the impact. It seemed like it was happening in slow-mo. 

My head bounced off the street with a nasty thud, but I didn’t lose consciousness. In fact, I popped right back up and started running in the opposite direction, even though I knew they were gone. 

NO JUSTICE 

Suddenly, I could hear my boyfriend; living in Pittsburgh and panicked by then, on my headphones, yelling for me to call 9-1-1, so I did. The cops arrived fifteen minutes later. They explained that they had just been dealing with a home burglary. I chastised them for having to save my own life.

Despite a pounding headache, I described what had happened the best I could. Then, I texted my boyfriend and tried so hard not to cry!

It was pretty dark out, so I didn’t realize how many areas on me were bleeding— my knuckles, my ankle, my elbow, my head… 

A second cop showed up with alcohol wipes and bandages, but I asked them to call the EMS to check on my pounding headache and the lump on my head. 

The EMS guys said my lacerations were minor. Both of those fellows were so nice, that I donated one of those special books I just fought for to their department. 

They asked if they could drive me home, but when I told them where I live, they said it was too far out of their district, and they could not drive that far.

I thanked them and said that I would just walk home. I was in shock. 

RESCUED BY ANGELS

When I got out of the truck, there was a beautiful young woman who had my daughter’s same name waiting for me. She told me that she had heard from the police and EMS what I had just been through, and she wanted to know how she could help. I asked her if it was OK if I could cry on her, and she said yes.  

Then, she told me that she would take me home. She and her date proceeded to take such good care of me that I gave them each a signed copy of my book. Figuring that if I was going to lose three books that night anyway, I would choose who to give them to and not just let them be stolen by savages! This thought made me happy.

I’M WORTH IT!

Reflecting on the way I fought against those thugs showed me how much I do value my own work. That’s also a really wonderful feeling. I was obviously willing to fight for what I believe in. I am walking the walk. 

The police, EMS guys and Jenny and Joe (my angels) kept saying that they were so proud of me—and I now see why. At the time, I was so shocked. But I fought back and survived! 

Walking down the street at 10pm on a Monday night in the middle of Ft. Lauderdale (in front of the Swimming Hall of Fame) turned out to be quite dangerous….

Posted by Jill Cueni-Cohen on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

PREPARATION FOR THE NEXT MUGGING?

I didn’t expect the police to catch  those two men; they said it was highly unlikely, and I was unable to get the license plate number. 

So, my second mugging was much more… satisfying. 

At the police station, I was introduced to my own detective, who helped me give my statement. Then I got fingerprinted to discern my prints from the mugger’s.  

Another really nice police officer was assigned to drive me home, and I explained to him that when this happened, I was headed towards the bank, and I still had to go there. 

He said, “Then we will go to the bank, and I will be your armed guard.”

Next thing I know, I’m at the bank with an armed guard! It was so cool! And then he drove me home.

MOST PEOPLE ARE GOOD

I certainly don’t want to blame myself, but I realize that I shouldn’t have held my cellphone in plain sight while walking in a dangerous area. My Philadelphia-trained daughter pointed out that this was a rookie move, but I had no idea.

Tatoo artist Jessica helped to capture the perp!

A few days later, I went back to the scene of the crime to thank all the people who helped me. Jessica, who turned out to be a famous tattoo artist, told me that this was the same guy who had tried to steal the headphones right off of her head the week before! So, I’m really glad I got a known criminal off the streets.

The thug had thrown my phone into a park right before he was apprehended, and when he did that, my screen got cracked! So, I went to the Galleria Apple store in Ft. Lauderdale to get my screen fixed.

I told the Apple employee, Juliana, what happened to me, and she told her manager, Mike Duval. Then Juliana came back and told me my repair would be FREE! So grateful, I just started crying.

If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that there are a lot of good people in the world!

It was horrible to have this jerk jump out and attack me like that. However, this second experience proved to me that I am able to react quickly in such situations. I was also pleased to be the reason another criminal gets caught…

But then I was informed that he was released from jail just a few months later.

THE WHEELS OF JUSTICE ARE RUSTY

Since then, it’s taken two and a half years to get a court date. 

Mug shot of the mugger

Yesterday was the first time I would face my attacker in court, but instead of a hearing, I understand the judge was trying to determine the guy’s mental condition. It seems he may be eligible for a lesser sentence. 

I asked the judge if I could “cover” the case with live video, since I’m a journalist. The judge told me that this was a first. And after much hemming and hawing, he said no. The defense attorney was clearly disturbed by my request.

GRASPING AT STRAWS

I was forbidden to take photos, so…

The attorneys all held a private meeting with the judge; called a “sidebar”. They even used white noise, so that there was no chance for us to hear what they were talking about. Afterwards, the defense attorney had a conversation with the perp. Ten minutes later, the defense accused my friend who accompanied me to court of “lip-reading”! (Neither one of us could even see that far across the room.)

The defense complained to the judge. He claimed that my friend’s “lip reading” had compromised the perp’s client-attorney privilege and demanded a new hearing. 

The judge replied that it’s no crime to “read lips”—and further wondered  how anyone would even prove such a thing. (Maybe some mind-reading is in order?) Regardless, he scheduled a new hearing for next week. I’m not invited. 

Stay tuned…

CRAZY DAY IN COURT!The defense grasped at straws and tried to accuse David Rosenthal of “lip-reading”!

Posted by Jillbooks.com on Thursday, April 18, 2019

CASE CLOSED

Two-and-a-half-years later, I finally get my day in court.

Tommie Mims, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, received five years of “mental health probation”. He will also have to attend an anger management course and take his meds. If he commits another, crime, he will serve up to 15 years in prison.

SNOWFLAKE TESTIMONY

Listening to Tommie and his girlfriend talk about their troubled lives; how they have been raising two young children without any “help”, I was reminded of my own troubled past.

A single mom, I have faced my own tough times, and I suffered from depression for a while as a result. I worked hard and eventually pulled myself out of it. I didn’t hurt anybody else, and I followed all the rules–even the ones I didn’t like.

This young man was forced to apologize to me, but his “I’m sorry” and “you didn’t deserve this” was tempered with, “I don’t usually apologize to people.” That phrase alone spoke volumes about the kind of person who would jump out at me in the middle of the day and wrest my cell phone right out of my hand. He had to throw me to the sidewalk in order to get me to let go of it. Then, in court, he stood there and said to me, “I didn’t mean it.”

When I had my chance to speak, I stared at him and stated, “You did mean it. You threw me to the ground, and then you ran away. You didn’t expect me to chase after you. You’re not sorry you hurt me. You’re sorry you got caught.”

MILLENNIAL SNOWFLAKE GETS 5 YEARS PROBATION for attacking me in the street. Here are the details….

Posted by Jillbooks.com on Friday, April 26, 2019

©️Jill Cueni-Cohen