“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


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.

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.”

  • Not disputing the story as reported…yet. Of special note is that all the people who said they witnessed the encounter are all City of Gainesville employees and we all know what happens to employees who have differing opinions with city leadership.

    Arreola eliminating the competition before the upcoming election? Inquiring minds would love to know.

  • Arreola: “He then threatened me by saying I’m a dangerous man.”

    Arreola: “We have to change the mentality of our society”

    • Arreola rudely interrupted a conversation between Mr. Shepherd and Ed Bielarski. It’s well known that Mr. Shepherd is a veteran and very skilled. He was simply warning Commissioner Arreola of that; this was not a treat. You ask anyone except some city commission employees; you’ll tell you Mr. Shepherd is always pleasant and kind.

  • I also condemn any violence. But David, I was assaulted and wrongly charged for a violent crime I did not commit by GPD. I have been begging the city to review my case for over a year. I wrote everyone on the commission a letter on 1-10-2022 and not one person has responded to the violence committed upon me with the courtesy of a reply or appropriate review. And YOU are my district representative. I’ve been critical of your time in office. Are you sure you don’t hold grudges? Why don’t you respond to me if violence is unacceptable to you?

  • It’s those masks…they are causing psychological
    Problems…the masks are making people more
    Violent. They need to ban mask wearing in the state
    Of Florida…you can see the mental illness in our
    Society by the abundance of vagrants panhandling
    And piling their possessions in shopping carts full of
    Crap by the sides of the road…they hold the cardboard
    Signs engaging in commerce…what did Areola &
    Sheppard have in common? Masks….Masks
    Are a political statement. Only hypochondriacs &
    Communists wear them.

  • I’m glad David supported and wanted to express it to Bielarski, and I look forward to a good mayoral race for a change. One hopefully more voters will turn out for.

    • They’ll probably trespass other political candidates next. Didn’t they already outlaw endorsements in the unfree citizen commie-ments?

      • Jeff, they are trespassing citizens who want to
        Address local government…Did you forget about
        Attorney Ray Washington getting arrested because
        He lowered his mask to breath? It is my understanding right now that that you cannot address
        The CC in person without a mask. They got their masks and shots & boosters….There is no state
        Emergency order. Desantis needs to step in so
        ALL citizens can address their local governments without vaccine passport or mask intimidation.

  • He should avail himself of his right to call in and speak on each and every comment topic.

  • >>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.
    That sounds like slander, even malicious slander. Curry just got hired IN NOVEMBER. How the heck is she in a position to speak about someone’s mental health(?), and she hasn’t even been around to witness Mr. Shepherd at “past meetings.” Did she mislead the officer? Arreola has always been absent about half the time. And he doesn’t pay attention even when he is there. Is he another “undercover” mental health professional? I say SUE FOR SLANDER and damage to your reputation, People’s Representative.

    • Thank-you for seeing the truth of the matter, How smart is the City Manager and her Mayor and Commissioners; when they cannot see the logic of you take away free parking – you’re hurting the profits of the business. Lose revenue doing so.

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