Sunday, March 3

Deputies justified in firing at SUV that blasted through Mar-a-Lago checkpoint, report says

Two Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies were justified when they fired numerous shots at a Connecticut opera singer whose speeding SUV blasted through a checkpoint outside then-President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club almost four years ago, an internal affairs investigation concluded.

Palm Beach County Detective Christopher Farron and Lt. John Paul Harvey followed agency firearms policy when they and a Secret Service agent shot at Hannah Roemhild, sheriff’s office investigators said in a one-page report. Roemhild was having a mental health crisis when she sped her rented Jeep through the checkpoint on Jan. 31, 2020, outside Trump’s home and private club.

Their bullets shattered the Jeep’s windows, but Roemhild was not hurt during the most violent of several incursions that happened at Mar-a-Lago during Trump’s presidency.

The report, dated Nov. 29, simply says the pair are “exonerated” and no disciplinary action was taken. The Associated Press received a copy on Friday. The Palm Beach Post first reported the finding.

Federal and state prosecutors reached plea agreements with Roemhild two years ago that found her not guilty by reason of insanity. The state had charged her with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, fleeing arrest and resisting an officer without violence. Federally, she had been charged with assaulting the Secret Service agent with a deadly weapon.

Under Florida and federal law, a person can only be deemed not guilty by reason of insanity if, because of mental illness, they did not know what they were doing or its consequences, or did not know it was wrong.

As part of Roemhild’s plea, she agreed to undergo psychiatric counseling and take medications, with monthly blood tests to confirm compliance. Prosecutors agreed that Roemhild “does not create a substantial risk of injury to herself or others.”

Her attorney, David Roth, said Friday that Roemhild, now 34, “is doing fantastically well” and “has put that sad chapter in her life behind her.”

“She holds no animus whatsoever with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, nor the Secret Service, as well as with the Palm Beach Police Department, who she recognizes were just doing their job,” he said.

Roemhild came to the attention of law enforcement after she pulled the Jeep into the parking lot of The Breakers, a luxury hotel about 3 miles north of Mar-a-Lago. She climbed on the Jeep, waving and making obscene gestures at guests. Breakers employees summoned Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Tony Kingery, who was working security.

Kingery arrived in his patrol car, its emergency lights flashing. When Roemhild tried to drive away over his commands to stop, Kingery broke the driver’s window with his baton. She sped south, driving dangerously through Palm Beach’s downtown shopping district with the sergeant unable to keep up.

She soon reached a checkpoint set up outside Mar-a-Lago in anticipation of Trump’s arrival later that day. She zigzagged around barriers and blasted through, narrowly missing Farron, Harvey and the Secret Service agent, whose name has not been released. They fired as the SUV sped past and away.

Roemhild then drove to nearby Palm Beach International Airport to pick up her mother, who had just arrived. The two went to a nearby motel, where Roemhild was arrested as she tried to run from officers. She told them she was escaping people trying to kill her.

Mar-a-Lago was the scene of at least four other intrusions during Trumps term.

In August 2020, three teenagers fleeing police while carrying a semiautomatic gun in a backpack jumped a wall at Mar-a-Lago. They were arrested immediately, and police said they did not believe the teens knew where they were.

In March 2019, Chinese national Yujing Zhang gained access to Mar-a-Lago while carrying a laptop, phones and other electronic gear. That led to initial speculation that the Shanghai businesswoman might be a spy, but she was never charged with espionage. Text messages she exchanged with a trip organizer indicated she was a fan of the president and wanted to meet him or his family to discuss possible deals. She was found guilty of trespassing and deported.

In December 2019, the club’s security officers confronted another Chinese national, Jing Lu, then 56, for trespassing and told her to leave, but she returned to take photos. Lu was charged with loitering and resisting an officer without violence after taking photos by entering a service entrance. She was later acquitted of trespassing but found guilty of resisting arrest.

On Thanksgiving weekend 2018, a University of Wisconsin student visiting the area with his parents walked into Mar-a-Lago by mingling with a group that was entering. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

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