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“The People’s Representative” Donald Shepherd trespassed from City Hall for a year after shoving Commissioner Arreola

Donald Shepherd gives public comment at the January 27 General Policy Committee meeting

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Donald Shepherd, who shows up to nearly every Gainesville City Commission meeting, has filed as a candidate for Gainesville Mayor, and calls himself “The People’s Representative,” has been trespassed from City Hall for a year after allegedly shoving City Commissioner David Arreola outside City Hall during last Thursday’s General Policy Committee meeting.

The incident report from the Gainesville Police Department states that the incident happened immediately after the committee fired Gainesville Regional Utilities General Manager Ed Bielarski. Bielarski walked out of the City Hall auditorium and out of City Hall. Shepherd and Arreola also walked out of doors on opposite sides of the auditorium and went out to where Bielarski was standing.

As Arreola walked toward Bielarski, Shepherd allegedly stepped toward Arreola and pushed him in the chest. Arreola then backed up to avoid any further confrontation, and Bielarski pulled Shepherd back, away from Arreola.

Arreola then went back into the building and into his office. City Clerk Omichele Gainey called the off-duty Gainesville Police Department officer who was assigned to the meeting and asked him to speak to Arreola. Arreola, who voted against firing Bielarski, told the officer that he had gone outside to thank Bielarski for his service to GRU when Shepherd began swearing at him. Arreola said Shepherd then pushed him and told him he was “dangerous.” The officer asked Arreola if he wanted to press criminal battery charges against Shepherd, and Arreola reportedly said he didn’t want to talk about it right then and didn’t want to do anything.

The officer also wrote in the report that Interim City Manager Cynthia Curry and Arreola both told him they had concerns from “observations lately of Shepherd’s mental health” and that “he was becoming more and more unpredictable with his behavior during some past and recent City Commission Meetings.” They both reportedly requested that he be trespassed from City Hall.

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The officer contacted Shepherd and reported that Shepherd voluntarily told him that Arreola grabbed his arms first before he pushed him. The officer wrote that he had personally witnessed the incident and saw Shepherd initiate the incident. Arreola also said that he did not touch Shepherd.

An Excelsior Security guard also witnessed the incident from inside the lobby of City Hall. He told the officer that Shepherd had initiated the incident and Arreola just backed up and put both his hands in the air.

The officer said he later followed up with Arreola, who again said he did not want to pursue criminal charges against Shepherd. However, he also declined to complete and sign the Complaint Withdrawal Affidavit.

The officer said he advised Shepherd that he was trespassed from City Hall for a year, and when Shepherd asked if he could return and stand in front of the building, the officer said he could not.

Arreola read the following statement at the end of the General Policy Committee meeting: “After the commission terminated Ed Bielarski’s employment earlier this afternoon, I went outside to shake his hand and thank him for his service, as I do for all of my charter officers when they depart. Mr. Donald Shepherd was speaking to Mr. Bielarski and began shouting at me. I did not respond when he shoved me. He then threatened me by saying I’m a dangerous man. I left.

“All of this was in front of Mr. Bielarski, a television reporter, multiple staff, security, and GPD. I don’t like to bring attention to myself, even when people do me wrong. I do believe in forgiveness. So I am not pressing charges. However, this is not the first time a citizen has attempted to physically intimidate me. I am speaking out to condemn violence. Any violence is unacceptable, and Mr. Shepherd’s actions were physically and verbally violent.

“It is also disturbing to see the continued normalcy of violent actions and words against elected officials in this country. No matter how you feel about someone, physical and verbal violence is never appropriate. Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. Bielarski for being the only bystander that attempted to intervene at the time.”

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