Victim advocates protecting home, self

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Bryant startled by break-in, suspect caught

By Jeff Bryan

Less than two weeks ago, if you had recommended gun ownership to Connie Bryant, she would have scoffed at the notion.

“I didn’t care who you were, I was never going to have a gun, I just don’t like them,” she said. “I grew up around them, but when I had my children, I would never allow them to touch a gun or own one. They weren’t allowed in my house, I wouldn’t tolerate it.”

That was then, this is now, especially after a late-night incident at her home April 24, Bryant’s stance about gun ownership and protecting herself has changed.

According to a sheriff’s office report, Bryant was asleep when she was woken by the sound of loud banging noises coming from outside. Bryant, who said she regularly feeds animals, believed it was a black bear rummaging for food, displaced because of the construction of the Sabal Transmission Pipeline. Concerned it was a bear, Bryant opted not her back door. Instead, she turned on the porch light to see what the commotion was all about.

“I turned on the light to peek outside,” she said. “And there he was; he was in a rage, he was 2 feet from me.”

And the “he” wasn’t a black bear, but Anthony Talley. The 26-year-old Dunnellon resident who was later charged with burglary of an occupied structure and criminal mischief, damage to property, more than $200, but less than $1,000.

So Bryant scrurried for the front door as Talley continued beating on the back door. Then, Bryant said, the banging stopped.

“At that moment, I didn’t know where he was,” she said. “It was just terror. Then, I heard the loud bang and it took him three kicks to bust open the back door. All of a sudden, I got my front door unlocked and I slammed the door shut.

“I can’t think of anything more terrorizing for that to happen. It happens so quick for you to think; for about 20 seconds, I had thoughts going through my mind. Twenty seconds to think about what could happen to me. He could have beaten me to death or beat me close to death the way he was attacking the door, screaming over and over again.”

So Bryant took off running, saying a prayer along the way.

“Please God, let me be able to run,” she said. “I can run, I’m telling you.”

Bryant fled to her closest neighbor; her closest friends were too far away.

“I started beating on his house,” she remembered, noting it was close to midnight. “It seemed like forever before he opened his door, but as soon as he did, I ran straight down his hallway and into the furthest closet I could find. He went outside and fired a shot in the air.”

By then, her friends had arrived. Bryant had tried calling them; while making the dash to her neighbor’s house she had asked Siri to call “Beth” who didn’t answer the phone. But the call didn’t disconnect and her friend had a message of Bryant breathing hard and beating on the side of that house.

“They jumped up and came over within 5 minutes,” Bryant explained, noting they called 911 and sheriff’s deputies were on scene within minutes.

The sheriff’s office canvassed the area and inspected Bryant’s home, where they found nothing missing. A large bedroom mirror had been moved and the faucet in the kitchen had been left on.

“I had my drone, iPads, jewelry,” Bryant said, “and everything was untouched.”

Yet, the way Talley was screaming, Bryant could tell, he was on one of those “crazy drugs.”

“He came from behind the house,” she explained, “and we all knew that kind of stuff was going on back there.”

By the time Bryant could re-enter her house, she couldn’t sleep, so she stayed with friends. But the next day, she, her son and others came to repair the back door.

“I couldn’t shut or lock my back door, my back gate was all torn off,” she explained. “It’s a huge (back gate); he’d ripped the gate off, broke the fence post in half.”

While the men were working on the back door, the women were talking and hanging around, rehashing the events of the night before.

“We just knew the person had to come from the house that is two doors behind me,” she said. “Everyone said it. There’s an older man who lives there and always two or three younger people living there. There are a lot of drug dealings going on back there.”

Her friend Beth had ventured toward the home, Bryant said, when she told those outside of it the story from the previous night. That is when Talley admitted to Beth he was the culprit.

“Beth took off running across a 2-acre lot, screaming, ‘he’s coming, he’s coming,’” Bryant said. “All of a sudden here (Talley) comes walking around the corner. He came from the back and started to walk toward us.”

Talley wouldn’t make it far, though, as five people — all armed — had guns drawn on him, Bryant said, and he refused to take his hands out of his pocket or listen to commands.

“He said, ‘Ms. Connie, I’m sorry.’ I didn’t recognize him,” she said, before realizing she had known Talley since he was a small boy.

“He didn’t give me any trouble,” she said. “The sheriff’s office got there and arrested him. Then it was over. It was the strangest thing. He had no emotion, he was real pale. He showed no emotion, no fear. It was bizarre.”

Talley’s first court appearance was April 26, where he was denied bond. He was awaiting a court date on a grand theft charge from a Dec. 31, 2016, case.

Now that the ordeal is over and Talley is in jail, Bryant said she’s relieved, but Bryant will be diligent in the future and if there is a next time she’ll be prepared.

“I will have my gun, I’m going to run,” she said. “I refused to be scared in my own home. I’ve been there for 12 years, and never been scared. I’m not a scared kind of person. I will have a plan if it ever happens again. You don’t think that’s ever going to happen to you.”

Bryant will take the necessary steps toward ownership of a gun, though. She plans to obtain her concealed weapons permit, spend time at a gun range and familiarize herself with the weapon. But she won’t shoot to kill.

“I’ve been saving lives for most of my life,” the former nurse said. “Of course, I don’t want to kill anyone.”

Bryant does chuckle at what the old her was like April 23, compared to the new her a day later.

“If you tried telling me about the importance of owning a gun, I’d have brushed you off,” she said. “Everything changed on Monday, all my way of thinking changed, I feel completely changed.

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me was for him to kick in my back door. The world is not like it was; we all need to have a plan, to be able to protect ourselves. There is nothing that would have protected me besides a gun. You need a plan, you really need a plan.”

Bryant does feel pity for Talley, but she believes jail is the best place for him and to get the help he needs.

“I hadn’t seen him since he was a little boy,” she explained. “(Being in jail) will save his life.”