‘I saw a gun and I just panicked’: Winter Haven mom narrowly escapes shooting outside apartment

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – Fear has become a part of Gladybel Caudill’s life.

“I’m scared. Going to work and coming home, I’m scared and I don’t like to be scared,” she said. “I think about it every day when I park there at my house. I have to look around and I’m paranoid. I’m scared.”

A Winter Haven woman narrowly escaped being shot Saturday morning in a wild case of misunderstanding and violence.

“This ranks among the craziest things I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of crazy things,” Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference Monday.

Caudill, a mother of three, works the night shift at Walmart.

At around 7 a.m. Saturday, she had just returned home to The Arbors Apartments in Garden Grove.

She was parked in a designated spot and checking messages on her phone. She was alone.

Then she saw a man standing behind the car parked next to her. He yelled at her to get out of the vehicle, and he had a gun, Caudill said.

“I saw the gun and I just panicked so I knew I had to get out quick,” Caudill said. “He started shooting and then I saw the other one, the son, and he started running towards my car shooting as well.”

Caudill quickly pulled out into reverse, hitting parked vehicles in a frenzy.

“When I hit the vehicles behind me, I felt trapped because I couldn’t reverse any more, so the only thing I could do was drive. There was a division between both of them and I went through there and escaped, thank God,” she said.

Caudill ran away and called 911.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene and arrested Gino Colonacosta, 73, and his son, Rocky Colonacosta, 15.

News Channel 8 is identifying the teenage suspect because of the seriousness of the allegations against him.

Source: Polk County Sheriff’s Office

Neither father nor son had a criminal record prior to this incident.

The Sheriff’s Office claims the Colonacostas fired seven shots at Caudill’s vehicle.

One of them went through Caudill’s son’s car seat and crashed into the driver’s seat, where Caudill was sitting.

Courtesy: Gladybel Caudill

“I just want them to be held accountable because it could have been very, very bad. It could have been fatal and no one deserves that. It’s scary,” Caudill said.

Both Colonacostas face charges of attempted murder, among other charges, and are being held without bond.

According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, the father and son thought someone was trying to break into their apartment.

They saw someone at their door on a Ring camera, picked up a firearm and went in search of the would-be burglar.

In fact, it was another neighbor dropping off prescriptions that were mistakenly delivered to the wrong unit.

“They went out looking for a burglar who wasn’t there and shot at an innocent woman’s car while she was in it,” Judd said. “We have a wonderful law that stands on the ground. That doesn’t mean you can look for people and shoot them. That’s what they did.”

The story of the Caudill suspects makes no sense.

“I don’t understand why they would think it was me, and why they would go out chasing somebody, why they didn’t call the police,” Caudill said.

Confusion aside, Caudill tries to live her life normally and not let this experience affect her.

It’s something her entire family struggles with, including Caudill’s teenage daughter.

“She said ‘I could have woken up without my mom.’ She said ‘I could have lost my mom this morning,’ and it hit me hard,” Caudill said.

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