A gunman got into the Broward County Courthouse this morning, aimed the weapon at his chest, and threatened to kill himself this morning before deputies and police were able to talk him down without any violence.
The gunman has been identified as 59-year-old Marin Stroia of Oakland Park, who was reportedly upset about his allegedly at times violent divorce case, in which Stroia, who is not an attorney, was representing himself.
He entered the courthouse through the exit doors of the main lobby, apparently sneaking in as others were walking out. There is no security at those exit doors, and the incident is leading to much discussion about courthouse security.
Stroia had just been arrested on Friday by the Broward Sheriff's Office for civil contempt of court, according to courthouse records. He was also charged in 2009 with violating an injunction for protection filed by his wife. That case remains open.
The contempt case is related to the state Department of Revenue and may concern the divorce case. It is believed he had one child with his most recent wife.
Court records also show that Stroia is facing a pending foreclosure on his home he had owned since 1992 in a working-class neighborhood in Oakland Park.
Stroia had just been granted a remodification of his loan, said his foreclosure attorney, Lorene Young. But Young wasn't sure if he even knew about that yet. She said she knew that Stroia was facing a great deal of stress but was still shocked to learn of this morning's events.
"The whole divorce case was a nightmare for him," Young told me. "That poor guy, he felt he got shafted in that case. There have been problems with it, and he's tried to work through them."
She said he never indicated any kind of mental instability, other than the great frustration that so many people going through the foreclosure process feel.
"His demeanor when he came in, he was obviously upset over his circumstances," said Young. "He had owned the house, and he refinanced it after he got married, and then the market crashed. But his demeanor was someone who was more frustrated with the system and the process. I would never have thought he would ever do something like this. He was polite, he was prompt, he was responsive when we asked for stuff, he was very cooperative, and he was very appreciateive. If anything, I'm not surprised to hear it was about the divorce case."
Ironically, state corporate records show that he owned a security company, Nova Industrial Security, in Pompano Beach until it dissolved in 2008. Prior to that, he also owned a company, Stroia Enterprises, with one of his wives.
Iris Siple, chief administrator for the Clerk of Court, said that the gunman walked into the main lobby through the exit doors. She said a clerk's employee, Tamika Thompson, noticed that the man had a gun.
"[Thompson] apparently did hear someone say 'You went in through the wrong door' to the man, but we don't know who that was," Siple reported. "She saw the man go towards the traffic area near the escalators and sit down on the floor. She was with some attorneys through her window at the time and told them very quietly, 'Just take your papers and walk away and get out of the area.' After she had all the customers move out of the area, then she went to
her supervisor, and they removed their employees. Then BSO was notified, and that's when BSO took over."
Siple said Thompson's reaction to the dangerous situation was remarkable. "She's really something of a hero," said the chief administrator.
Later, Stroia demanded to talk to a judge, and the nearest one was apparently retired Judge Joel Lazarus. From the Sun-Sentinel:
Filling in for bond court hearings Friday, retired Judge Joel Lazarus said he became aware of what was happening one floor below. At some point he was told that a man needed to speak with a judge.
He started for the escalator but paused when he saw the man with a gun under his chin.
Lazarus said, "I told the man, 'I won't go down there until you put the gun down.'"
The judge said the man told him he had one bullet in the gun.
"I don't want that bullet in me," Lazarus said he told the man.
Once authorities had possession of the gun, Lazarus said he spoke to Stroia for 10 to 15 minutes.
According to Lazarus, Stroia was distraught about his divorce proceedings and felt everyone "was conspiring against him."
"He was ranting and raving about his divorce situation, but not incoherently," Lazarus said. "He needed to vent, he needed someone to listen to his problems."
After Stroia calmed down, Lazarus promised that deputies would provide Lazarus' contact information to Stroia so he could write to him about his divorce situation. Lazarus said he promised to pass Stroia's concerns to Chief Judge Victor Tobin.
Stroia was taken into police custody without further incident.
More on Stroia
Court records reveal a long and bizarre domestic trail for Stroia. He was divorced in 1990 from his wife at the time, Mona.
He remarried in 1995 to a woman named Marilia.
Stroia then filed for divorce against Marilia in 1999. Later in that same year, Stroia filed for an injunction for protection, accusing Marilia of domestic violence.
On November 20, 1999, he married a woman named Miralva.
In 2007, Stroia filed for divorce against Miralva.
Then on February 5, 2008, Miralva Stroia filed an injunction for protection against Stroia alleging domestic violence.
Three months later, on May 30, 2008, Miralva filed for another injunction for protection, again alleging domestic violence.
A month after that, Stroia filed for an injunction for protection against Miralva alleging violence against their minor child.
In June 2009, Deustche Bank filed a foreclosure case against him in court, and the case remains pending.
The story is obviously a tangled one that will continue to unfold.
Siple and other courthouse regulars, meanwhile, are clamoring for more security in the wake of the incident.
"We go for a very long time without any problem, and now you have a problem," Siple said. "This could have been a horrendous disaster. Luckily it turned out not to be. But change has to happen. Those [exit] doors have to be protected. We need security there now. At Room 120 for county civil court, you can walk right in off the street and you're in the courthouse. That needs to be changed now."