Former Officer Bethany Guerriero Dealing with Viral ‘Clumsy Cop’ Video Explains Why She Held Man at Gunpoint

WEST PALM BEACH — Twelve seconds were all it took to end Bethany Guerriero’s 20-year career in law enforcement. She held an unarmed man at gunpoint for so long, and the arrest was captured in a viral video titled “Innocent Man Arrested by Unhinged Cop.”

Despite being the target of ruthless online hate and despite being fired from the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, Guerriero maintains she did the right thing. In court papers made public this month, Guerriero said she believed Ryan Gould – the man she arrested and who later set out to end her career – was 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.

“She did not tell.

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Former Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Bethany Guerriero

Gould is suing Guerriero over what his lawyers say was an unlawful arrest and excessive use of force. He called 911 on May 9, 2023, to report a neighbor threatening him with a gun, but suddenly found himself staring down the barrel of Guerriero’s issued gun.

Guerriero’s colleagues and thousands of viewers online are speculating why the officer acted the way she did. A transcript of Guerriero’s three-and-a-half-hour testimony with Rice provides the first explanation in her own words.

“I admit throughout the day that it wasn’t my best moment,” she said.

Former Officer Bethany Guerriero on Ryan Gould’s Arrest: 911 Caller Didn’t Act Like a ‘Typical Victim’

Guerriero slowly walked Rice through the meeting, second by second – a luxury she said she didn’t have as the situation unfolded in real time. Two men from the Sabal Ridge apartment complex in Palm Beach Gardens got into a verbal altercation at a local 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 disproved Salvia’s story and confirmed Gould’s.

Guerriero said the conflicting 911 calls resulted in “very confusing” radio traffic from the dispatcher. When she pulled into the parking lot in front of the apartment, it was unclear to her which man had the gun and who was at fault.

But she knew that Gould, who was standing alone in the parking lot, was not exhibiting “typical victim behavior,” Guerriero Rice said. She said he was agitated, vulgar and defiant, showed “disrespect for me and my presence” and evaded when asked for his name.

When asked if Gould might have been agitated by his neighbor’s threats, Guerriero agreed. She said she now understands he could have “been in my own head,” but trying to make a split-second decision, “I don’t have time for that.”

“I wasn’t there at that moment to find out whether it was trauma or not,” she continued. “I have to protect everyone, including Mr. Gould.”

Related: A new lawsuit is filed against a fired Gardens police officer who rose to fame in the viral “clumsy cop” video.

The split-second decision was whether Gould was the same gunman he called 911 to report. Although he was only wearing swimming trunks and Crocs, Guerriero said she thought he may have had a firearm in his pocket or hidden under a towel on the ground behind him.

Guerriero ignored Gould’s insistence that he was a victim, not a suspect, and seemed increasingly angry the more he challenged her. She called him a “punk,” made fun of his painted toenails and told him repeatedly, “Shut your mouth.”

“I feel like the language I used was considered unprofessional,” Rice said. “I was worried about protecting lives. Not so much my language.”

After handcuffing him, Guerriero told her companions that Gould was “probably under the influence of drugs” and that he continued to reach into his pocket despite her commands to stop – which was contradicted by footage from the officer’s body camera and the apartment’s surveillance camera.

Although she maintains she had probable cause to arrest Gould, Guerriero told Rice that her behavior that day was likely influenced by a “cardiac incident.” While still in the apartment building, Guerriero reported worsening chest pain and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where she spent two days in the cardiology ward.

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Fired officer Bethany Guerriero said she wasn’t the first person to become emotional during an arrest.

A few days later, Gould posted a video of his arrest on YouTube, along with more videos of him trying to talk about his meeting with former police chief Clinton Shannon. One video shows officers forcibly removing him from Palm Beach Gardens police headquarters after Gould told the chief to “shut the (expletive) up.”

In June, the YouTube channel LackLuster, which hosts videos of police misconduct, shared Gould’s story with an audience of more than one million. The city fired Guerriero two months later for violating several department policies, noting in its records that the filmed encounter brought “large-scale disgrace to the department.”

City officials have provided no details about the incident that ended Guerriero’s career, but a 126-page investigative report released in September included interviews with several colleagues who witnessed her behavior.

“He’s literally grimacing with his hands clenched,” Sgt. – said Marc Glass. “He has this grimace, pursed lips, all the time. She’s staring at him, Mr. Gould. He just moves his hands back and forth.”

Many described the officer “blinded” by rage, who told them that Gould had committed a crime that only she had seen. Dennis Beath said he had “never seen anyone act like that.”

In her testimony, Guerriero said that throughout her career, she saw other officers behave the same way she did. She declined to provide details, but said she had had to intervene several times “and calm things down before people’s emotions completely took over.”

The fired police officer had a history of policy violations

Her personnel records show that Guerriero earned over $101,000 a year by the end of her career. She was part of the department’s hostage negotiation team and was praised in several employee reviews for her composure in stressful situations.

One supervisor wrote that she was “usually hand-selected to handle incidents involving suicidal and confrontational individuals.”

Nevertheless, several violations of department policy preceded her latest: accessing a proprietary database to spy on her ex-wife’s partner, a Delray Beach police officer; leaving an AR-15 rifle in a police car that was burglarized; and showed “inflammatory behavior” toward a man she arrested in 2019.

Gould’s lawsuit against Guerriero is also not her first. In 2018, Zsofia Ruha accused an officer of detaining her “within two seconds” and not giving reasons.

“The safety and life of every private citizen who encounters Officer Guerriero,” Ruha wrote to the judge. She represented herself instead of an attorney.

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

Hannah Phillips covers criminal justice for The Palm Beach Post. You can contact her at [email protected]. Help support our journalism and subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Bethany Guerriero Explains Ryan Gould’s Arrest