So you’ve just finished your workout at a very nice Miami Beach gym. You’re in the shower. The curtain is drawn. It’s a setting that comes with certain expectations.
Like, say, privacy. Like, say, no gun play. You don’t expect an armed thug decked out like a SWAT cop to pull back the curtain and stick a weapon in your face.
“I thought I saw a gun. It may have been a Taser,” said Scott Linnen. “I had soap in my face.”
It happened at about 8:15 Tuesday evening. The shower and steam room were packed, said Linnen, a Miami ad exec and a longtime member of the David Barton Gym and Spa on Collins Avenue. Suddenly, he said, five armed guys in military gear, with bulletproof vests and gold badges stormed into the crowded room. Linnen said their adrenalin was pumping. “They were amped.”
They shouted. They rousted naked men from a dozen shower stalls. They blocked the exit. They shouted that the room was on lockdown. Guns were drawn. A few gym members dropped to the floor. “It was just a melee,” Linnen said.
Two men, presumably fugitives, were extracted from the confused mess. The TAC squad dumped the pair’s bags and searched their belongings. “They kept yelling, ‘Where’s the gun?’ as if the guy was hiding a pistol under his towel,” Linnen said.
He said the “arrest” and interrogation seemed to go on for 20 or 30 minutes, while he and the other members, wrapped in their towels, were detained, kept away from their own clothes and possessions and cellphones. They were trapped, held in lockdown by men with the intimidating accouterments and the brusque, surly, threatening attitudes cultivated by a special ops strike force.
But gradually it dawned on Linnen that these guys were from no place like officialdom, despite those big gold badges. As the fugitives were hauled away, he threw on his clothes and caught up with the apparent leader of the faux TAC unit.
Linnen demanded identification. He was handed a garish business card from a bail bondsman, complete with the fellow’s nickname, which somehow made the experience all the more outrageous. “His name was Fuzzy,” Linnen said. “Some guy named Fuzzy was able to do this to me.”
“This was just some ragtag group, a bunch of paid mercenaries, all dressed up to look like federal agents, who could come into a private gym with no warrant and do whatever they want to.”
Linnen, on Friday, was still having difficulty accepting that these characters could bust into a private gym “and pull back the shower curtains and point Tasers at naked men” without breaking the law.
Nor was the management of the David Barton Gym and Spa management pleased that bail bondsmen would send their commandos into those ritzy environs on a busy evening to nab a couple of fugitives. The company issued a statement after the raid, complaining, “They simply ignored our normal security measures, including the building security guard on duty. We feel that they put our members and staff at risk needlessly.”
Actual police officers, actual government agents, actual public employees would have surely been more circumspect. Cops would have needed a warrant to raid a private club. But licensed bail bondsmen operate in a kind of legal netherworld, along with their agents (known variously as skip tracers, bail recovery agents, fugitive recovery agents and sometimes as bounty hunters, though Florida law does not allow the industry to employ that particular term).