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'Victim' of Navy Security Exercise Bitter Over Outcome

April 02, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

A civilian security officer at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station who claims that he was kidnaped from his Eagle Rock home and beaten during a military exercise last year said that the man who captured him should have been shot.

"I should have let my wife drop him," Ronald Sheridan, 52, said in an interview last week. The Sheridans filed a lawsuit March 17 seeking more than $6 million in damages from the federal government.

"I wish I had shot that guy," agreed Sheridan's wife, Margaret, who said she had pointed a loaded revolver from the front-porch balcony of their home at a stranger brandishing a gun as he forced her husband into a car in the predawn hours of March 20, 1986. "It would have stopped all their games."

Terrorist Exercise

Sheridan was allegedly held captive at a Costa Mesa motel for more than 30 hours by a special Navy security team during an exercise designed to test the Seal Beach base's response to a terrorist attack.

The Sheridans described the incident during an interview in their Eagle Rock home, where the abduction allegedly occurred last year.

Navy officials have refused to comment on the suit but have acknowledged that an internal investigation into the charges is under way.

Sheridan said he had been briefed ahead of time about the military exercise but was not aware that he would be targeted as a "hostage." He said he learned later that he was used to test the military's reaction to a terrorist attack.

Sheridan, a former Los Angeles police officer who has worked as a civilian at the base since 1984, said a series of incidents, such as bombings and threats, had already been staged over several days at the base when he received a 3 a.m. call at home from a dispatcher who said another threat had been issued.

"I took that information, gave some advice and started to go back to sleep," Sheridan said. "But I usually get up at 4:30 anyway, so I decided I might as well go in."

He said he dressed and left the house at 3:30 a.m. with his wife standing at the front door with a loaded revolver. His wife did this every morning when he left, they said, to defend against possible attack from criminals seeking revenge for Sheridan's police work.

Sheridan said that, as he walked down the front stairs of his hillside home, he saw a figure holding a gun beside a corner of the garage. "At first, there was no thought in my mind that he was part of the exercise," Sheridan said. "I had never seen the guy before. I didn't know who he was. All I saw was the gun. I thought he was some street criminal."

'Blow Him Away'

Sheridan said that, when he saw the stranger with shaggy hair and a mustache "the first thought that popped in my mind was that the minute this guy steps out from behind the corner of the garage, she's going to blow him away."

Then, he said, the intruder flashed a badge and said, "This is part of the exercise--you're it," and told him to get into the car.

Margaret Sheridan said that, when she saw the man, she was immediately prepared to shoot. "It was like the nightmare that you talk about for so many years," she said. "There it was happening right in front of me with this character."

She said she aimed the revolver at the intruder, but her husband raised his arms and yelled, "This is part of the exercise." Margaret Sheridan, her voice shaking as she recalled the incident, said she did not believe her husband. "I thought he was just a street thug," she said. "He looked like a street thug."

Sheridan said he kept warning his wife not to shoot as he got into the car. "Marge raised the gun three times and took aim," Sheridan said.

Finally, she said, as she watched the two men get into the car, "my conscience was telling me, 'You don't shoot somebody right there,' and I had to trust that he was in control," she said.

Frantic Calls

After her husband left, she said, she made several frantic calls to the base but was assured that the kidnaping was just an exercise and was told not to call police. She said she continued to worry until her husband called about an hour later and told her he was safe, although he was not allowed to tell her where he was.

Meanwhile, Sheridan said, he was told to drive a short distance and stop behind another car with three persons in it. He said he was first searched, then handcuffed before being driven in his own car to the Don Quixote Motel in Costa Mesa with the second car following.

Sheridan said he was not frightened because he realized what the men were doing. He said he made no attempt to defend himself, even though he had several weapons hidden in his car. He said the handcuffs were removed when the men stopped for gas.

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