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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A good night for Gracie
Persistence and brutal honesty aided Cpl. Robert Gracie to save a life.
By CAMILLE C. SPENCER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 3, 2007
The suicidal woman barricaded herself in the bathroom, armed with a knife and an air gun. Pasco Sheriff's Cpl. Robert Gracie got the call. He drove to the mobile home on Hicks Road. ¶ His mission: save her life.
* * *
I'm Corporal Gracie from the Pasco sheriff's office. What's going on? Do you want to come out and talk to me?
Woman sticks barrel of gun through door
I downed a bunch of pills.
Come on out. I will get you to the Harbor (the mental health agency) so I can get you some help.
I hate Community Hospital. I don't want to go the hospital.
I am not going to take you to Community if you don't want to go.
Do you swear to God?
Yes, I swear to God.
Okay ... I know you guys have Tasers. I don't want to get Tasered.
I swear I won't Taser you.
(Woman peeks out of door and quickly slams it shut)
There's a lady standing in the bedroom.
(There was no woman in the room; but there was another deputy there, out of sight, backing up Gracie.)
I am standing in your bedroom. It's only me inside the house.
I have a knife up to my throat.
Honey, come on out. We will get you to the Harbor.
Do you swear to God?
Yes, I swear to God ... Hon, I know you have a rifle in there. Can you put it in the tub? I want to help you.
(At that point, Gracie didn't know that the woman had an air gun, not a rifle.)
There's too many people standing in the room.
I swear to God, nobody's in the room.
Well, I don't want to be Tasered.
Listen. How can I convince you that you can trust me so you can come out of there?
Get everybody out of the room.
The room is now empty.
(Woman peeks her head out of the door)
There's a woman in the room.
I swear to God, there's no woman in the room.
(Gracie hears suicidal woman put the gun in the bathtub)
What can I do to get you to come out and trust me?
Get everybody out of the house.
How about you come out?
Can I come out with a knife against my throat?
That would be fine.
(Woman comes out)
Now, you see I'm standing here. I will keep my promise, and I won't take you to Community.
You swear to God?
Yes, I swear to God. If you put the knife down, I will handcuff you and get your things so you can go.
(Woman drops the knife, and Gracie handcuffs her. He kicks the knife away, and the two head outside.)
You're not taking me to Community, are you?
I swear to God.
* * *
Postscript: For his conduct during the June 28 incident on Hicks Road, Gracie, 40, earned a Life Saving Award last month from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, where he has worked for the past decade. Although four months have passed since the encounter, the Times asked Gracie to reconstruct as best he could his dialogue with the suicidal woman. Those recollections form the narrative above.
The woman Gracie talked out of suicide is 48 years old. She was taken to the Harbor, which won't say what happenedto her.
Gracie thinks he's had to deal with at least five other potential suicides during his 13-year career. As he talked this week about the June 28 incident, Gracie recalled the last thing he said to the woman.
"You know, you made me swear to God so many times, I am going to hell."