A metro Atlanta man says he was only trying to defend himself when he pulled a gun on two women at a post office, fearing they could have the novel coronavirus.
Harvey Joel Taratoot was arrested at his home Sunday following the incident at the post office branch on Webb Bridge Road in Alpharetta, station WSB-TV Atlanta reported. Sandra Wilson and her 18-year-old granddaughter, Shaniyah Carlton, told police they were checking their mailbox when they were confronted by a man with a “Colonel Sanders mustache.”
The women, who were both wearing medical masks and gloves when they arrived, said they felt helpless as they stared down the barrel of Taratoot’s gun.
“He literally pulled his gun out of his holster,” Wilson recalled. “When he pulled his gun out of his holster, all you could do is just think this man. Was we going to live. Was we going to die?”
Taratoot, 75, reportedly shouted at them, “Don’t come near me!” before rushing out the door. After news of the incident broke, he contacted local media to give his side of the story.
“These two ladies from the left walk in to the main entrance, which is the only in and out entrance, and one of them has a mask on and the other has a hoodie on,” Taratoot told WSB-TV by phone. “So, as they start approaching I say to them, ‘Please don’t come any closer,’ and they ignore what I say and keep coming closer.”
The elderly man explained his wife suffers from severe asthma, and so he didn’t want to risk bringing the virus home to her.
“So, to stop her from coming any closer, for fear that they could have the virus, here it is she’s wearing a mask, I don’t know why she is wearing a mask, I pull out my pistol,” he added. “As soon as she saw me take it out of my holster, she stopped.”
The Alpharetta man admitted to pulling his gun, but denies pointing it at Wilson and her granddaughter.
“I don’t think in all the years I’ve carried a gun, 40 something years, have I ever had to pull my gun on anybody,” said Taratoot.
He’d fled the post office by the time police arrived. Wilson’s granddaughter manged to snap a picture of his license plate as he left, and a piece of mail Taratoot left behind in haste led the authorities straight to his home. He was arrested and booked on a charge for pointing a pistol at another, according to a police report.
The man is now back at home after posting a $1,500 bond, but is now quarantining himself from his wife because he’s not sure what he was exposed to during his time at the Fulton County Jail.
Taratoot said he feels the charges against him should be dropped, adding that he wouldn’t have had to pull his weapon had the women heeded his orders.
In a statement posted to Facebook, Alpharetta police called the incident a gross “overreaction” on the suspect’s part.
“Please do not allow fear to overcome your logic while we’re going through this,” police wrote. “This could have certainly ended with tragic results for everyone involved.”