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Condo meeting turns into fracas

By Timothy J. Gibbons
Published by Daytona Beach News-Journal on February 1, 2000.

DELTONA -- A meeting of the Edgewater Condominium association devolved into chaos over the weekend, with two senior citizens coming to blows in the lobby of the Deltona Civic Center.

The reorganization meeting, everybody agreed, was raucous from the get-go. The participants seem fuzzy on exactly why, though, with no one able to name a particular topic that set off people.

"The president kept getting booed because he wouldn't let anyone speak," Joseph Schirano, 60, said. "I was one of the ones yelling."

Accounts differ as to what happened next.

As soon as the meeting adjourned, Schirano told the sheriff's department, former association president Anthony LaRocca made a beeline for him. "He just lost his cool," Schirano said. "He was so mad because everyone was booing him. He handed his papers to his wife and tried to drag me outside."

Carol Davis then stepped in to break up the fight, she told authorities. "He (LaRocca) was like a madman, he was so red-faced," she said. "This one little old lady was hysterical. He looked like the devil."

Davis said she tapped LaRocca on the shoulder and he started hitting and choking her, according to sheriff's reports.

But LaRocca, 65, told authorities he was just trying to leave the building when Schirano and Davis attacked him. "The meeting was just about being adjourned, and I was going to confer with the board members when, all of a sudden, the you-know-what hit the fan," he said when contacted Monday. "I was attacked by several females at least five.

"It appeared to be a setup of some sort," he said. "I have a reputation for being a gentleman. That's why they sent the women after me. They knew I'd not fight back."

But Davis, 51, said she got involved only to help Schirano, who is a half-foot shorter than LaRocca. "When he turned around, he hit me in the face," said Davis, who said she has had medical problems with her jaw hinge. It was the worst possible place to hit me."

Then, she said, LaRocca started choking her as well. "I was kicking and punching everywhere trying to get loose," she said. "When somebody's got you by the throat, what are you going to do?"

LaRocca, who used to be a school principal in New York City, said he's seen women fight before. "They were trying to hit me you-know-where. I'm black- and-blue on my thighs," he said. "I've seen riots of this nature in the school system. I know how to take care of myself."

The group that targeted him has long been disruptive, LaRocca said. During his decade as president ofthe association, he's made several changes, he said, modifications that have required a two-thirds vote of condominium owners.

Schirano, Davis and others were in the minority on several of those votes, he said.

"This has been rumbling for a while," he said. "This last few months have gotten out of hand."

After things got out of hand Saturday, sheriff's deputies gave all the parties involved in the altercation referral cards that require them to meet with the State Attorney in a week.

In situations like this, with conflicting stories, the Sheriff's Office does not issue citations.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Schirano showed no injuries. Davis had bruises to her face, deputies said, and LaRocca had a small scratch on his face and bruises on his left leg.

All three said that they are considering civil suits against other parties.

Despite the altercation, LaRocca said that he'll continue in his current elected position as vice president. He'll also continue building the consulting firm he recently founded.

I'll be doing lecturing and seminars for corporations," he said. "I'll be teaching them how to deal with difficult people without becoming part of the problem.

"It takes two to argue," he said. "If you don't argue, there's no problem."



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This is a showcase of the work done by Timothy J. Gibbons during a journalism career now stretching back more than a decade.

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