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Victim says officers had no choice but to shoot her attacker

ST. PETERSBURG — In her first public comments since Tuesday's fatal police shooting, the woman threatened by a barbecue fork said two officers had no choice but to shoot her attacker.

"I was there," said Wendy Ott, the 44-year-old former girlfriend of the attacker. "The police tried to do everything possible to get her to stop. They didn't want to shoot her."

Police responded to a 911 call about 8:07 that night and found Julie Goodson, 42, pinning down Ott on the floor. Goodson was holding a large barbecue fork to her throat, threatening to hurt her, police said. A sergeant ordered Goodson to put down the fork. Instead, she lifted the fork as if to stab Ott, police said.

That's when the sergeant and an officer fired, striking Goodson in the upper body. Goodson, a mother of two, died at the scene.

The State Attorney's Office and the Police Department will investigate the shooting to determine if it was justified. Sgt. Joseph H. Collins and Officer Robert A. Virant have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is routine in police shootings.

Several of Goodson's friends have blamed Ott for provoking Goodson, whom they described as a kind person who was devoted to Ott throughout their seven-year relationship. One friend, Jack Sally, said Ott "must have pushed Julie to the edge for her to pick up a fork like that."

But Goodson's ex-husband, the father of her teenage daughter and stepfather to her 21-year-old son, said Goodson had "borderline personality disorder" and attempted suicide at least four times.

"It was rough living with her, rough being around her," said Jose Barto. He also denied that he was abusive toward her, despite a 1991 domestic violence injunction that Goodson filed against him while they were married.

Ott cried as she read a prepared statement to a St. Petersburg Times reporter, calling the shooting a terrible accident. She described Goodson as an "artistic, talented and good-hearted person."

She asked that the public respect her and Goodson's family's privacy, and wanted Goodson to be remembered as a good family friend to Ott.

"(Goodson) always tried to do the right thing," Ott read from the statement. "In the last month she has been distraught over her employment and a significant other."

Regarding Tuesday's shooting, Ott only wanted to say that police made a tough decision to save her life.

"This was not something they wanted to do," she said.

Ott would not talk about what led to Goodson's attack.

"Until you've been there," she said, "you don't get it."

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Victim says officers had no choice but to shoot her attacker 02/12/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 13, 2009 9:15am]
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