Winston Perry said he feels awful about scratching the paint on a woman's car over a parking dispute.
"I was frustrated, but that's no excuse,'' Perry, 72, said Wednesday, one day after his arrest on a charge of criminal mischief. "I just lost my cool, and the truth is, I don't even remember doing it.''
Perry said the trouble started when he and his wife, Andrea, were working at her business, Ritzy Rags & Glitzy Jewels, on Courthouse Square in downtown Inverness.
They were taking surplus clothing out the front door. Winston Perry's vehicle was parked in the back of the shop on a small parcel of his property just outside the back door.
The problem is that, to get to his back lot, Perry has to drive across a parking lot that is owned by someone else. And he's been warned by the owner not to do it.
The lot is shared by the Department of Juvenile Justice, an insurance company and a law office.
All of those buildings and the parking lot they share are owned by Citrus Hills resident Dan Falcone, who doesn't want Perry to drive across his parking lot.
"Listen, I am not trying to be a jerk about this, but Perry has been antagonizing people a long time, telling them he has an easement across my property, and that's just not true,'' Falcone said.
In June 2003, Falcone sent Perry a certified letter warning him to stop.
Andrea Perry said the situation has escalated over the years, with confrontations with Falcone's tenants at the DJJ. The DJJ staffers park their vehicles along the back of the lot, effectively blocking Perry from getting to his back door.
"That's a public safety issue,'' Perry said Wednesday. "We need to have access back here.''
It came to a head Tuesday after the Perrys were taking out the surplus clothing. They said it was being donated to Homosassa Elementary School. The guidance office gives the clothes to needy parents as a reward for showing up for parent-teacher conferences, they said.
"We were trying to do something good for the community,'' Winston Perry said. "And look how it turned out.''
Ann Sanders, a DJJ staffer, had parked her green car in the agency's lot, and Perry asked her to move it so he could move his car around to the front. When it didn't occur fast enough to suit Perry, he took his car keys and made long scratches along both sides of Sander's green car.
"It was a dumb thing,'' Perry said Wednesday.
Deputies arrived and soon had Perry in handcuffs. The arrest report stated that his car keys were caked with green paint from Sanders' car. He was charged with criminal mischief and released after posting bail.
Property owner Falcone, who arrived at the scene after being called by DJJ staffers, said he was saddened to see Perry sitting in a deputy's car, in handcuffs.
"He looked so sad,'' Falcone said. ''He just looked at me and said, 'Yeah, I know, I'm so sorry.' ''
Contact Jorge Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-7313 in Citrus or 1(800) 333-7505, ext. 7313 toll-free.