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Victim's Terror As Drunken Man Busts In

Unconvinced he was at the wrong apartment, suspect crashed in door, breaking chain.

In the last 40-plus hours, Erica Spacher has gone past sadness to anger as she thinks about a strange, drunken man who broke through her chained door in what was apparently a case of mistaken apartment identity.

"I was robbed of something I'll never get back," said Spacher. "I lost the illusion of safety."

While Spacher locked herself inside her bathroom, the man stumbled into her living room, threw up on her couch and later grappled with Contra Costa sheriff's officers who responded.

The 29-year-old Walnut Creek man was charged with breaking and entering, resisting arrest, vandalism and being drunk in public in the 10:45 p.m. Thursday incident, sheriff's office spokesman Jimmy Lee reported.

De-escalation techniques

Spacher works in a Concord agency that counsels people on ways to avoid violence. In fact, through STAND! For Families Free of Violence, she had recently been through de-escalation training on techniques in defusing confrontations. She had a thought of using those techniques but then reasoned that the man — who was banging on her door, shouting "C'mon, man," and insisting it was his apartment — was too intoxicated to reason with.

For now, Spacher lives in the Archstone WC Apartments on Treat Boulevard, which consists of dozens of similar-looking, beige, two-story units. When Patch interviewed her Saturday afternoon, she was packing boxes — the incident has shaken her and made her determined to move to a place not populated with memories of a harrowing night.

As the racket escalated at 10:45 p.m. Thursday, Spacher looked out the peep hole and noted that the man was well dressed in business attire. Spacher followed the advice she had given many others through her training. She dialed 9-1-1. The dispatcher talked her through it as the assailant made four crashes against broke the door, finally popping the chain assembly out from the jamb. She locked herself inside the bedroom, and then inside the bathroom.

From the bathroom, she heard the man try the bedroom door. She was terrified that he was going to rape her.

The man rested on the living room couch and threw up. Officers took extra time to find the apartment because of the similar look of the beige buildings, Spacher said.

The officers grappled with the man and one drew a gun, while Spacher was locked in the bathroom, she said. When the suspect was secured, the officers informed the dispatcher, who told Spacher it was safe to come out. The man was still insisting it was his apartment, Spacher said. She told the officers she didn't know the man.

Before Thursday, Spacher said she was aware of the civic debate over fights spilling out of downtown Walnut Creek bars, two miles south of her apartment complex. "I could see it being a problem in Walnut Creek — such an affluent community but people still have substance abuse problems," she said.

In an email to Patch, Spacher wrote, "Right now in Walnut Creek the bars are being told to close earlier and they must. This city is not safe unless measures are taken. I never thought that this would happen to me, especially since I live in Walnut Creek at a very nice and upscale apartment complex. Please share this story on Patch. I want people to know that there are victims who are being hurt."

Spacher thanked the dispatcher, whose name she didn't know, for reassuring her through the ordeal. And she thanked Officer Ryan, "who was ready to protect me, to keep me safe." Ryan handed her a business card that had victims service agencies printed on the back, including the one she works for. 

She has had trouble sleeping the last two nights, Spacher said. She said it would help her to heal if readers were moved by the story of her ordeal to donate money to STAND!

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