A Fort Lauderdale man who says he is trying to rid his neighborhood of drug addicts and criminals has been ordered by a judge to stay away from five homeless men, who say he is a vigilante who chased them with a chain saw and threatened to kill them.
Broward Circuit Judge Julio Gonzalez Jr. on Monday ordered Stephen D. Sticht, 49, to have no further contact with the five men and to surrender any weapons to law enforcement until a formal hearing can be held on April 17.
Police said Monday they have had no recent complaints of criminal activity by Sticht and that some of the allegations against him come from known criminals suspected in area burglaries. But the homeless men said they have tried complaining to police, to no avail, and accuse Sticht in court records of posting "Wanted" posters of homeless people, one of which offered a $500 reward for a particular "crackhead."The homeless are being helped by members of Legal Aid and the Public Defender's Office, who are gathering with members of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Coalition for the Homeless today to protest at a news conference.
Sticht, a building consultant and artist, says he has never threatened anyone or done anything illegal to prevent rampant crime near his business in Middle River Terrace. And he didn't make the wanted posters, he said
"This isn't a homeless problem, this is a crack-head problem," he said in an interview. "These people just aren't down there taking a nap. They are petty thieves, they break into cars, prostitute themselves."
In affidavits filed in court Monday, the five homeless men said Sticht patrolled the area at night with a spotlight, ran after them with a chain saw, threatened them with a knife, and fired a gun. Several of the men said they think Sticht made the wanted posters because, they said, he took their photographs and told one what he was going to do.
State records show several of the homeless men have extensive criminal records, including arrests for cocaine possession, shoplifting, trespass, prostitution and lewd and lascivious conduct. Brown, for example, was found guilty in 2005 of burglary and grand theft, records show.
While I can't advocate the use of a chainsaw, I can understand the guys frustration.