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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 originally charged with breaking and entering, resisting arrest, vandalism and being drunk in public was in the 10:45 p.m. Thursday incident, sheriff's office spokesman Jimmy Lee reported.

The man was eventually found guilty of only the misdemeanor drunkenness charge.

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 the door, finally breaking it and popping the chain assembly out from the jamb. Spacher 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.

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!


Elizabeth February 19, 2012 at 04:06 AM
I hope she finds a safe place to live. Poor thing, that must have been terrifying!
Triple Canopy February 19, 2012 at 04:37 AM
"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. " Spacher is mistaken in that she thinks she lives in Walnut Creek when in fact she does not. She gets her mail from the WC post office but Archstone is located in unincorporated WC or Contra Costa County. AND, restaurants with alcohol service are not being "closed" per se.. it's the alcohol service that has only been limited to only ONE place - Lift Lounge and Grill. They can serve food after the end of alcohol service time but of course that is not as lucrative as serving cheap alcohol at high prices.
Im4WC February 19, 2012 at 04:41 AM
That sounds like a harrowing experience. But I'm wondering what proof there is that this person came from a WC bar.
Creek Diva February 19, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Baffled why one would even attempt to discredit this woman's address after what went through. Erica, thank you for sharing your story and I hope you find a safe new place to call home.
Carla Spacher February 19, 2012 at 05:18 AM
I feel that Erica must be a courageous young lady, as she is doing something about the situation to help others rather than cowering like some other may have. Whether in an upscale neighborhood or not, no one should have to go through anything like this!
AmyWC February 19, 2012 at 05:23 AM
Really?! That's what you got from this article? Can you imagine how terrifying an experience this was? And your response is to correct her on WC vs. unincorporated WC?
Triple Canopy February 19, 2012 at 03:00 PM
A "chained door" is useless and simply foolish. The units are equipped with a deadbolt for a reason. USE IT. As far as presumed safety living in an "upscale neighborhood", that is just an illusion in this day and age. It can and does happen everywhere. It's not about being paranoid - it's about being smart when living in a dense urban/suburban area.
Melynn February 19, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I'm ultimately concerned with the lack of accountability here- the fault of this situation is of the ADULT MAN who chose to drink too much and make a bad decision. Why take judgements to WC bars (I know the city and residents seem to think its an easy out to blame the bars) but the fact is, this man could have came from a business dinner at a five star Restuarnt or an engagement party at a relatives home. Let's be real people- yes, this was a bad situation and I'm glad no one was injured... but this could have happened anywhere to anybody. Bars have been open in this country before many other businesses models even existed and lets face it, all of us have been to a bar and had a good time with friends and family at one point or another.... Stop blaming others and have some accountability, it's part of being an adult.
Lance Howland (Editor) February 19, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Responding to Im4WC I don't know where the assailant was drinking. I asked Erica if she knew and she didn't. I thought it was interesting that, before this happened, she was aware of the civic debate in WC over last-call-for-alcohol times and drunken brawls spilling out of downtown bars. No matter where someone does his drinking, I hope a victim's story like this might give pause to a guy who goes on a drinking binge and slides into aggressive behavior. -- Lance Howland, editor, Walnut Creek Patch
Im4WC March 22, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Someone interested in letting me know why my comment was flagged as inappropriate for saying that, in my honest opinion, the Archstone Apartments off Treat Blvd were not "upscale?"
Lance Howland (Editor) August 14, 2012 at 10:55 PM
I wanted to alert the readers of an update to this February story. The defendant in this case, who faces four misdemeanor counts in Contra Costa County Superior Court, stated in an email that the events at issue did not take place as described in this article; he did not elaborate. -- Lance Howland, editor, Walnut Creek Patch
Carla Spacher August 21, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Lance, thanks for the update. Erica has a copy of the police report which backs up her story. And someone who is highly intoxicated, enough to mistaken another apartment for his own, and break down a front door, is obviously too intoxicated to remember the facts, or will lie to protect his job/reputation. I'm sure you're aware of this already, but it's just food for thought for others.
Anonymous September 14, 2012 at 03:27 AM
I happen to know who you are talking about here. After many hard years of taking care of both his Grandmother and Mother ever since his mother became depressed (after her divorce from his father), his mother managed to commit suicide in February of 2011 in spite of being placed in a 24 hour watch facility under his direction. The incident you are referring to here happened one year after his mother's death. I know this does not excuse his behavior, but I think it can help us to realize that no situation is merely black and white. Although he has gone through some really difficult times, I think he is honestly trying to do right in life: he has a nice job, a nice house, and a nice girlfriend despite receiving little encouragement or help at home throughout his youth. He also still takes full care of his grandmother who has dementia. I think if we understand that sometimes good people make bad mistakes, we can learn to forgive.
Carla Spacher September 14, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Anonymous, Though I completely understand you being proud of this young man since he has overcome such obstacles, Erica was told by the District Attorney's office that his excuse for being drunk was his celebration of his birthday. Yes, we all make mistakes, especially when we are young. At 30 years old, it's time to grow up and take responsibility. All Erica ever wanted was an apology. Instead, as stated above, she only heard denial. After living in fear every time she heard anything that sounded like a knock at the door, she's just trying to move on, and put this ordeal behind her. Good luck to all.
mlm2013 December 11, 2013 at 04:24 PM
There is a difference between being in the City of Walnut Creek and being in unincorporated Walnut Creek. In unincorporated, the Sheriff is the cop and the City of Walnut Creek police DO NOT and WILL NOT respond to a crime in unincorporated WC. I don't think the earlier comments were meant to diminish Ms. Spacher's situation, but readers should understand which policing agencies are responsible for the area, there is a difference. I live down the street and this is usually a very quiet neighborhood - hope she is doing well.

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