Ex-officer Bethany Guerriero of viral 'unhinged cop' video explains why she held man at gunpoint (2024)

Bethany Guerriero said she mistook Ryan Gould for the very gunman he'd called 911 to report.

Hannah PhillipsPalm Beach Post

WEST PALM BEACH — Twelve seconds is all it took to end Bethany Guerriero's 20-year career in law enforcement. That's how long she held an unarmed man at gunpoint, the arrest immortalized in a viral video called "Innocent Man Arrested By Unhinged Cop."

Despite becoming the target of unrelenting online hate, and despite being fired from the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, Guerriero maintains she did the right thing. In court records made public this month, Guerriero said she believed that Ryan Gould — the man she arrested, who later made it his mission to end her career — posed a potential danger to himself and others.

“As you sit here today, do you feel that your conduct warranted an internal affairs investigation?” Gould's attorney, Eric Rice, asked Guerriero.

“No,” she said.

'Never seen someone act like that': Report offers details on firing of Palm Beach Gardens officer who held man at gunpoint

Gould is suing Guerriero over what his attorneys deemed an unlawful arrest and excessive use of force. He called 911 on May 9, 2023, to report a neighbor for threatening him with a gun, only to find himself staring down the barrel of Guerriero's department-issued one.

Guerriero's colleagues, along with thousands of viewers online, have speculated as to why the officer behaved the way she did. A transcript of Guerriero's three-and-a-half hour deposition with Rice offers the first explanation in her own words.

"I'll admit all day long that that wasn't my best moment," she said.

Ex-officer Bethany Guerriero on Ryan Gould arrest: 911 caller didn't act like a 'typical victim'

Guerriero walked Rice through the encounter slowly, second by second — a luxury she said she didn't have as the situation unfolded in real time. Two men at the Sabal Ridge Apartment Complex in Palm Beach Gardens had gotten into a verbal spat at the community swimming pool, and both called 911 to report the other.

The first caller, Benedetto Salvia, accused Gould of harassing his pregnant wife. The second, Gould, accused Salvia of threatening him with a gun. Surveillance footage later refuted Salvia's account and confirmed Gould's.

The contradicting 911 calls made for "very confusing" radio traffic from dispatch, Guerriero said. It wasn't clear to her when she pulled into the apartment's parking lot which man had the gun, and who was at fault.

She did know that Gould, who stood alone in the parking lot, didn't exhibit "typical victim behavior," Guerriero told Rice. She said he was agitated, verbally combative and defiant, showing a "lack of respect for me and my presence" and deflecting when asked for his name.

When asked whether Gould could have been agitated because of his neighbor's threats, Guerriero agreed. She said she understands, now, that he could have "been in his own head," but when trying to make a split-second decision, "I don't have time for that."

"I wasn't there at that moment to figure out if it was trauma or not," she continued. "I have to keep everybody safe, including Mr. Gould."

Related: New lawsuit against fired Gardens police officer, made infamous by viral 'unhinged cop' video

The split-second decision concerned whether Gould was the very gunman he'd called 911 to report. Though he wore only swim trunks and Crocs, Guerriero said she thought he may have had a firearm in his pocket or hidden beneath the towel on the ground behind him.

When asked why she didn't search Gould for a gun at any point during the encounter, Guerriero said she assumed another officer would do it.

Guerriero ignored Gould's insistence that he was a victim, not a suspect, and seemed to grow angrier the more he challenged her. She called him a "punk," ridiculed his painted toe nails and told him repeatedly: "Shut your mouth."

“The language that I used, I guess, was deemed unprofessional," she told Rice. “I was concerned with protecting the safety of lives. Not so much my language."

After handcuffing him, Guerriero told her companions that Gould was "possibly drugged," and that he kept reaching into his pockets despite her commands to stop — all of which was refuted by footage from the officer's body camera and the apartment's surveillance camera.

Though she maintains she had probable cause to arrest Gould, Guerriero told Rice that a "cardiac incident" likely contributed to her conduct that day. While still at the apartment complex, Guerriero reporting worsening pain in her chest and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where she spent two days on the cardiac floor.

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Fired officer, Bethany Guerriero, said she isn't the first to succumb to emotion during arrest

Gould posted avideo of his arrestto YouTube days later, along withsubsequent videosof his attempts to speak with former Chief of Police Clinton Shannon about the encounter. One video shows officers forcibly removing him from the Palm Beach Gardens police headquarters after Gould told the chief to "shut the (expletive) up."

The YouTube channel LackLuster, which features videos of police misconduct,shared Gould's storyto an audience of more than 1 million viewers in June. The cityfired Guerriero two months laterfor violating several department policies, noting in its records that the filmed encounter brought "disrepute to the department on a large scale."

City officials did not elaborate on the incident that broughtGuerriero's careerto an end, but a 126-page investigative report released in September contained interviews with several colleagues who witnessed her behavior.

"She's literally grimacing with her hands clutched," Sgt. Marc Glass said. "She has this scowl, tightened lips, the whole bit. Staring at him, Mr. Gould. She's just kind of moving back and forth with her hands."

Many described an officer who was "blinded" by rage, who told them Gould committed a crime only she had seen. Sgt. Dennis Beath said he had "never seen someone act like that."

In her deposition, Guerriero said she'd seen other officers behave as she had throughout her career. She declined to give specifics but said she had to intervene “and calm a situation down before human emotions completely took over" several times before.

Ousted police officer had history of policy violations

Guerriero earned more than $101,000 annually by the end of her career, according to her personnel file. She belonged to the department's hostage-negotiation team and was praised in several employee reviews for her composure during stressful situations.

One supervisor wrote that she was "usually hand-picked to handle incidents which involve subjects who are suicidal and confrontational."

Nevertheless, several violations of department policy preceded her last one: accessing a restricted database to snoop on the partner of her former wife,a Delray Beach police officer;leaving her AR-15 rifle inside her patrol car, which was burglarized; and displaying an "instigative behavior" toward a man she arrested in 2019.

Gould's lawsuit against Guerriero isn't her first, either. In 2018, a woman named Zsofia Ruha accused the officer of arresting her "within a matter of two seconds" and failing to say why she had done so.

"Every private citizen's safety and life is in danger who comes across officer Guerriero," Ruha wrote to the judge. She represented herself in lieu of an attorney.

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks dismissed the case in 2020.

Hannah Phillips covers criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her athphillips@pbpost.com.Help support our journalism andsubscribe today.

Ex-officer Bethany Guerriero of viral 'unhinged cop' video explains why she held man at gunpoint (2024)
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