Punta Gorda woman arrested after breaking into disabled firefighter’s home

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson
Published: Updated:
Mugshot of Jessica Gutzler. 40. (Credit: Charlotte County Sheriff's Office)
Mugshot of Jessica Gutzler. 40. (Credit: Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office)

A Punta Gorda woman was arrested Tuesday after she was accused of forcefully breaking into a disabled firefighter’s home last week, then attacking the first responder before he shot her in the stomach to protect himself.

The suspect, Jessica Gutzler, 40, faces a felony charge of Burglary with Assault or Battery. She is in Charlotte County Jail.

Gutzler was pounding on a door of a Port Charlotte home on Thursday around 7:30 p.m. A disabled firefighter from the New York City Fire Department, Robert Lafata, approached the door, asking who was banging on the door.

“There’s nobody that pounds on my door like that,” Lafata later said to WINK News.

Lafata loudly shouted, “I’m going to get my gun!” He then retrieved his Kimber, .45 Caliber, semi-automatic handgun.

Soon after opening the front door, a masked person shoved her way through the door and a fight ensued, according to the Charlotte County Circuit Court affidavit. She punched the victim in the throat and jaw, then gouged Lafata in the eyes. As Gutzler pulled down the rag covering her face, Lafata recognized the suspect as a friend of the woman staying over that night.

Moments later, Lafata struck Gutzler’s in the head with the butt of his handgun, but the struggle continued. Lafata soon began to fear that he was going to be overpowered.

“She turned around and grabbed me and locked my arm up so I couldn’t move,” Lafata said.

The victim fired a shot at the suspect, hitting her in the lower back. The bullet exited at the top of her left buttock, the affidavit states.

“You shot me!” said Gutzler, shocked at the moment. “You shot me!”

Soon afterward, Gutzler fleed the scene, only to later call 911 to get medical assistance in treating the gunshot wound.

Now, the disabled New York City firefighter continues to recover from his wounds. He still has a hernia disc in his back and a broken pelvis. On top of those previous injuries are the ones from the incident with the suspect.

“The top of my eyes still hurt and for a few days,” Lafata said, “I couldn’t even look upward.”

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