By Eileen Kelley, Lisa J. Huriash and Brooke Baitinger
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — She was standing on a rental car doing a little dance outside The Breakers when the state trooper rolled up. The 30-year-old opera singer from Connecticut jumped down, got into the black Jeep and ignored the Florida Highway Patrol officer’s motions to roll down her window.
Minutes later, Secret Service agent and Palm Beach County deputies opened fire on Hannah Roemhild after she plowed through two security barricades near President Trump’s Mar-a-Largo estate.
Authorities said Friday they had no reason to believe the chase through Palm Beach was an act of terrorism, but perhaps a case of impairment before noon. No one was injured.
Roemhild was set to appear before a judge Saturday morning, but her appearance was rescheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. after she reportedly refused to appear in court.
Roemhild grew up in Connecticut and has traveled around the world as a singer. She is “very astute, very intelligent” and her actions are “very uncharacteristic of her,” a family friend said.
The FHP trooper was asked by security at The Breakers to check on the woman dancing on the Jeep at 11:38 a.m. When she ignored him and put the car in drive, the trooper smashed the driver’s side window in an attempt to grab the steering wheel. He missed.
Roemhild sped off, driving erratically — at times on the wrong side of the road — as she headed South on Ocean Boulevard toward Trump’s estate, sometimes at speeds estimated to be 70 mph, according to authorities.
The security barricades meant to protect the president did not stop her.
Ric Bradshaw, the Palm Beach County sheriff, said Secret Service and deputies jumped out of her way just in time as she slammed through the second barricade.
That’s when they opened fire, Bradshaw said.
“It was unknown at that point time — due to her erratic driving — how many lives she was going to put in danger,” he added. “We didn’t know if it was somebody with car bomb or if it was somebody trying to hit as many pedestrians as possible.”
The trooper who had smashed the window caught up with the woman as she crossed the bridge on Southern Boulevard and headed west. He eased back on his pursuit because of safety concerns, said Maj. Robert Chandler of the Florida Highway Patrol.
A license plate reader alerted authorities that the Jeep was near the Palm Beach International Airport.
Troopers, already in the area, spotted Roemhild and followed her into Studio 6 Suites, a hotel in southern West Palm Beach. All told, authorities had lost sight of the woman for about 15 minutes.
At the hotel, Roemhild made a run for it, but a trooper tackled her.
Hours after police arrested her, the Jeep sat abandoned in the parking space Roemhild had swerved into just outside her room, according to a housekeeper who wished to be identified only as Rose. The passenger side door hung open as investigators combed both floors of the hotel and the parking lot for evidence. The property manager declined to comment.
No one was hurt from the chase and shooting. Trump was not at Mar-a-Lago at the time, although he arrived hours later for the Super Bowl weekend.
Word that the opera singer now faces multiple charges for endangering law enforcement officers stunned people who know Roemhild.
“She’s a good girl. She’s incredibly talented,” said Marilyn Malcarne, a Connecticut friend of Roemhild and her parents. “She has really studied her opera singing and she has an amazing voice.”
Malcarne said she would never expect such behavior from Roemhild. “She wouldn’t hurt a soul,” she said.
Malcarne said perhaps Roemhild was drinking. “This is so uncharacteristic of her.”
Roemhild’s neighbor said he’d lived across the street from the singer for three years and said she has never come across as mentally unstable, troublesome or aggressive.
“This is shocking,” he said.
In the bio of Roemhild’s Instagram page, she lists performances dates. She listed Jan. 28 in Palm Beach, but did not provide a venue.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the shooting, as will the FBI.
Authorities have responded to several trespassing incidents since Trump was elected.
A University of Wisconsin student was arrested in November 2018 for sneaking into the club. He pleaded guilty in May and received probation.
Two Chinese nationals were arrested for trespassing last year.
In March, Yujing Zhang lied to security and was able to get inside Mar-a-Lago. She was found guilty in September of trespassing and lying to the Secret Service.
Federal agents were concerned that Zhang was carrying two passports, four cellphones, a laptop, an external hard drive and a thumb drive, but she was not charged with espionage. Zhang never got close to Trump, who was playing golf.
Zhang is in federal federal custody and is awaiting deportation.
In December, Lu Jing was charged with loitering and prowling when she was spotted taking photos at Mar-a-Lago and refused to leave. Trump and his family were not at the club at the time. Jing is awaiting trial.
(South Florida Sun Sentinel staff writers Juan Ortega, Skyler Swisher and Andrew Boryga contributed to this report.)
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