A Florida man and his son are under arrest and charged with trying to kill a woman who they allegedly believed was a would-be burglar sitting her car outside their apartment complex.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd identified Gino Colonacosta, 73, and his son Rocky Colonacosta, 15, as the duo facing a host of charges, including attempted murder, after the Saturday morning incident. The sheriff ranked the shooting as one of the most bizarre and disturbing cases he has ever seen.
“What I’m about to tell you, you just absolutely cannot believe,” Judd said at a press conference Monday. “This ranks among the craziest stuff I’ve seen in a while, and I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff.”
Judd said that on Saturday morning, a neighbor living in the suspects’ apartment complex had left a “misdelivery” of medication intended for the Colonacostas’ residence at their front door.
The neighbor, Judd said, hung the medication on the door and left. The Colonacostas were alerted to the neighbor’s presence due to their video home security system, and apparently believed that they were being burglarized.
“Are you kidding me?” an incredulous Judd said during Monday’s press conference. “The dude is being a good neighbor and he simply goes there and returns the package to the appropriate address[.]”
The Colonacostas, Judd said, “arm themselves” — each with a .45-caliber handgun — and went to look for who they believed was the perpetrator.
“They go outside and they’re searching for their quote-unquote ‘burglar,” Judd said. “There is no burglar.”
There was, however, a woman about 100 yards away sitting in her car, engine running. She is checking messages on her cell phone, “minding her own business,” Judd said.
“She looks up and she sees Gino standing at the back of the vehicle with a gun pointed at her, screaming for her to get out of the car,” Judd said, adding that the woman, believing she was being robbed or carjacked, “throws her car into reverse” trying to get away — crashing into a nearby parked car in her panic.
Rocky, thinking that the woman was trying to back into him, started shooting into the car, Judd said. Gino also then started shooting at the car.
The woman was not hit with any bullets, and Judd said she was able to put the car in drive and get away.
“Did you hear what I said?” Judd asked at the press conference. “The two of them shot at an innocent lady, sitting in her car, where she had a right to be, looking at her cell phone.”
Judd said the father and son shot at the woman seven times. During the investigation, the sheriff’s office discovered that one of the bullets had gone through a baby car seat in the back and lodged in the driver’s seat.
“Our victim was that close to death,” Judd said. “Certainly if there had been a baby in the carseat, the baby would have been killed.”
Judd emphasized that the Colonacostas’ alleged actions do not fall under any kind of self-defense or so-called “stand your ground” law, noting that even if the father and son had found the neighbor who had left the medication at their door, they were not entitled to seek him out and shoot at him.
“In Florida, we have a wonderful castle doctrine law, we have a wonderful stand your ground law,” Judd said. “That doesn’t mean you can go search people out and shoot them. That’s what they did.”
Judd indicated that he feared for the safety of anyone who would approach the Colonacosta’s apartment.
“So anybody that walks up to their front door, a friend, a relative, a neighbor doing a neighborly deed by delivering medicine that got sent to the wrong house, gets shot at?” an incredulous Judd asked. “What are they thinking?”
Judd noted that Rocky, at age 15, is not allowed to have a gun, but said his father gave it to him. The sheriff added that that neither defendant had a criminal record before this incident.
“Our goal is for them to go to prison,” Judd said. “You don’t shoot at people. You don’t leave the security of your home and go out and chase people down. That is not appropriate.”
“And then the person that they chased down was not even the person who made the delivery!” Judd continued. “Just shoot whoever’s in the neighborhood. What kind of craziness is that?”
Jail records indicate that Gino has been charged with attempted murder, culpable negligence, discharging a firearm in public, allowing a minor to possess a firearm, aggravated assault, conspiracy, and contributing to the delinquency of a child.
Court filings have not been made publicly available, but records indicate that Colonacosta’s arraignment is set for Nov. 22.
[Images via Polk County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office.]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]