Wayne Pert woke to a sharp nudge to his ribs. “Did you hear that?” his girlfriend, Sandra Kaye Murr, whispered.
Blinking his eyes awake, Pert lifted his head and listened.
“I don’t hear anything,” he said, sinking back into his pillow.
Murr was certain she had heard a car engine start.
While a loud semi on the distant highway or the faulty muffler of a pickup on the nearby gravel road might be within earshot, a motor starting near the trailer in this remote area outside Steinhatchee, Florida, would be very unusual. The two-track driveway to the mobile home stretches about 120 yards between fenced cow pastures, and the aluminum-sided, off-white trailer sits another 100 feet from the end of the lime-rock lane.
Several minutes later, Murr popped up when she thought she heard something brush the side of the trailer. The 56-year-old flight attendant poked her head out the back door. It was a few minutes before 7 a.m., and light was just starting to peek through the swamp cabbage palms that dot the yard and the tall red pines that surround it. A thick fog hanging over the area made it hard to see very far, but Murr didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
It was Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, and the couple was planning a day of fishing on the Gulf. They had spent the previous day at the trailer — formerly the home of Murr’s mother before she passed and now their part-time residence — cleaning things up, moving some stuff out and conducting a general check-up of the property. Today they planned to launch their boat near Keaton Beach, about halfway between the rural Dixie County property where they lived part-time and Pert’s home 30-some miles north in Taylor County.
The fishing excursion would be just the second voyage on the brand-new boat for Pert, Murr and their 2-year-old blue heeler, Ryder. A lifelong Floridian, Pert, 69, permanently settled into the Big Bend region of north Florida in his mid-20s, largely due to the plentiful outdoor opportunities. He started dating Murr a few years ago and jokes that, while they haven’t made the union official, he considers himself “illegally married.”
Moments after Murr closed the door, Ryder began making a low, soft growl as he stared intently toward the entrance. It was strange behavior for the 55-pound, white-haired, black-spotted rescue dog. Murr decided to let him out to investigate. Maybe a deer or a wild hog had gotten into one of her garden beds, she thought.
Murr walked to the door leading to the screened porch area, cracked it open and stopped dead in her tracks.
Murr shrieked when she saw the man standing at the bottom of the steps. She quickly blocked Ryder, slammed the door shut and locked it.
“[Murr] went to screaming and hollering, and I jumped up,” Pert recalled. “I had my pistol laying beside me on the nightstand there, and I jumped up and ran in there.”
Pert opened the door to see an unfamiliar man wearing a camouflage coat and pants standing at the bottom of the red wooden stairs inside the screened porch. The brown-haired man of average height and build appeared to be in his 30s and wore wide glasses. Pert, a USCCA Elite Member, immediately sensed something was off.
“Can I help you?” he asked tersely from the top of the stairs.
“I ran out of gas out there on 19, and I coasted up in here,” the man responded.
Pert noticed the man’s gold convertible parked off the driveway, along the far side of his own gold truck. To get from Highway 19 to its current position, the allegedly fuel-less vehicle would’ve had to coast roughly a quarter mile from the highway all the way to the driveway and then another 150 yards or so down the lane and into the yard. And even if that were possible, why would the man drive away from the highway — where there’d be far more people who could help — and down a driveway to a stranger’s home?
And those weren’t the only red flags.
“I didn’t like the way he was acting, moving around or talking,” Pert said. “And I didn’t like his attire, the way he was dressed. Nothing added up with him.”
The man was wearing gloves, thick pants and a U.S. Army winter coat even though it had been warm enough that Pert and Murr had run the air conditioner through the night. Pert, still in just his underwear and a T-shirt, decided it’d be best to lend the man a hand and get him on his way again as quickly as possible.
“Hang on a minute,” Pert told him. “Let me get some pants on, and I’ll see if I can help you.”
Pert walked back to the living room, where Murr had retreated, and asked her to stay inside with Ryder while he got the man some gas and made sure he left the property. As Wayne was putting on his shoes, Murr noticed the man had stepped away from the red wooden stairs and was now staring at the couple through the trailer’s kitchen window.
“There’s something not right with this guy,” Pert warned.
Gregory Ryan Miedema
A little over nine hours earlier and about 7 miles north on Highway 19, Taylor County Sheriff’s K-9 Deputy Troy Anderson pulled over a gold 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible for a routine traffic stop in a rural part of the county. Anderson, who was the only officer on the scene, called in the plate numbers before stepping out of his squad car.
Police reports indicate that, as Anderson approached the vehicle, Taylor County Sheriff’s Department dispatch began issuing a warning that the owner of the vehicle could be dangerous and had recently threatened suicide as well as violence against police officers. Before Anderson received the full message though, the driver, without saying a word, began firing a 9mm handgun at him. Anderson was hit in the left hand and the left side of his jaw and neck. Despite significant injuries, Anderson was able to call in a report of shots fired. The driver fled the scene in his vehicle.
Dixie and Taylor County Sheriff’s Office officers and paramedics responded to the scene immediately, and Anderson was airlifted to the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville in stable but critical condition. The neck injury, in particular, was concerning to doctors because of how close it was to a major artery.
Gregory Ryan Miedema, of Lee County in southwest Florida, was identified as the suspect by the plate numbers that Anderson had called in. Police reports indicate that officers made contact that night with an ex-girlfriend who had been living with Miedema in Lee County. She said she broke up with Miedema and kicked him out of her home after he beat her about a month earlier. She filed a restraining order against him at the time and indicated Miedema had threatened to kill her. Miedema’s mother had filed a missing person report on Miedema on Feb. 11, 2022, after the family hadn’t heard anything from him following that breakup. Within the report, she indicated that Miedema had recently threatened “suicide by law enforcement.”
This was not Miedema’s first brush with law enforcement. The registered sex offender was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and possession of child pornography in 2011 while serving in the U.S. Army and stationed in Hawaii. His victim was 15. Miedema was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison.
As the manhunt unfolded on the night of Feb. 22, police agencies from across the state joined the search for Miedema, who was considered armed and very dangerous. Around 11:30 p.m., police issued a statewide Florida Blue Alert, a system that was created for instances when a law enforcement officer is hurt or killed in the line of duty and the attacker remains a threat to the public.
“I truly believe that he had an evil mindset,” Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler said in a press conference the next day.
Pert’s phone, which was charging in the trailer’s living room, buzzed as the Blue Alert hit late that night. Pert and Murr slept peacefully in the bedroom one room away.
Shootout in Dixie
Pert opened the door to the mobile home again. The man, who he would later learn was Miedema, was still standing at the bottom of the steps, mere feet from the door.
“Buddy, you need to back up a little bit,” Pert insisted.
Without saying a word, Miedema turned — seemingly acknowledging Pert’s request — before rapidly twisting back as he pulled a handgun from his coat pocket.
“That’s when he started firing at me,” Pert said.
Miedema fired the handgun four times from barely outside of arm’s reach. He hit Pert twice: once in the left shoulder above his collarbone and once in his left wrist. Pert, who says time seemed to slip into slow motion around this point, fell forward — down the steps about 3 feet — and onto the concrete porch. The final two shots whizzed past his head.
“I thought he hit me in the face, because my ears went to ringing real bad,” Pert said.
Miedema stepped over Pert and walked into the house to go after Murr. Pert knew he was hit, but he wasn’t feeling any pain thanks to the rushing adrenaline.
“I didn’t know how bad I was shot, but I wasn’t really worried about me,” he said.
Pert rolled onto his back and drew his short-barreled Taurus 9mm from the holster he had strapped to his right hip moments earlier. As Pert raised his gun, he saw Miedema forcing Murr against the pantry wall about 12 feet away and pointing a gun directly at her face.
“I was just so afraid that he was fixing to pull that trigger when he had that pistol in between her eyes,” Pert said.
And then Pert realized his mistake: He didn’t have a round in the chamber. Quickly reaching to rack the slide, the right-handed shooter discovered another problem.
“I looked and saw my [left] wrist was blown out,” Pert said. “I just threw one in the chamber. I didn’t even feel it to be honest with you.”
By this time, Ryder started viciously growling and biting at the feet and ankles of Miedema, allowing Murr to escape. She ran into the bedroom, locking the door, and Miedema turned his pistol toward the attacking dog.
“I just emptied my gun on him right there,” Pert said. “I wasn’t going to stop until he fell.”
Pert fired all six rounds he had loaded in the pistol toward Miedema’s upper back, dropping the attacker to his knees. Miedema then collapsed to the floor, falling in Pert’s direction. As he attempted to stand back up, Miedema dropped his pistol.
Pert didn’t know if Miedema had any other weapons, and he wasn’t going to give Miedema an opportunity to get to one. He rushed over, picked up the attacker’s handgun — which he’d later learn was a .22 — and fired one final round into the man’s head.
The entire incident, from Pert opening the door after dressing to that final shot, lasted approximately 10 seconds.
‘Not Our Day to Die’
Suffering from severe tunnel vision and hearing loss, Murr didn’t even realize it was Ryder that had helped give her the opening to run into the bedroom. She just knew that the attacker had let her go, and then she ran as fast as she could to get to the bedroom. Slamming the door behind her, she locked it and then immediately heard gunshots — the shots she’d later learn were fired by Pert. In the moment, she thought the attacker was shooting at her through the bedroom door.
“So I’m running for the closet to hide, and I was just going to at least get out of the way of his bullets,” Murr said. “On my way there, I remembered the shotgun. I got the shotgun. I laid it on the bed and made sure it was loaded. It was ready to go.”
She knew Pert had been shot and that he was badly injured. She feared the worst.
“It’s OK to come out,” Pert called. “I need your help.”
In a panic, Murr replied, “I can’t.”
“In my mind — I know this sounds awful — but my first thought was, ‘Maybe the guy is making him say this.’ My second thought was, ‘Wayne would die before he did that.’ I know that. But my first thought was the guy was holding a gun to him and making him tell me to come out.”
“Kaye, I’m shot. I’m bleeding. I need help,” Pert replied. “He’s dead. I killed him. He’s dead.”
Relief rushed over Murr. She opened the door and stepped back into the scene of the attack. The attacker’s body lay in the kitchen with her badly wounded boyfriend standing nearby and blood pooling across the floor. It was too much.
“She was really, really panicking and scared,” Pert said.
Pert needed her though. Murr, who had some first-aid training through her job, composed herself enough to help sit her boyfriend in a wooden rocking chair in the porch area before grabbing some rags and putting pressure on his wounds.
Still badly shaking and out of breath, Murr tried calling 911 but was having a hard time speaking clearly. The dispatcher asked several questions about the attacker’s vehicle, but Murr was too afraid to go outside to get a closer look at it.
“Is it gold?” Murr remembers the dispatcher asking.
She could hear officers asking the dispatcher questions. Murr had no idea at the time, but they were just beginning to piece together that Miedema, the person officers from across the state were looking for all night, was involved in this incident as well.
Meanwhile, Pert called Murr’s cousin, Eddie Hines, who lives nearby, and asked him to come over right away, warning that he wasn’t certain the attacker was alone.
“I was turning on my coffee at the time,” Hines recalled. “I just grabbed my .30-30, and I’ve got a pistol here in the truck, and I ran over here just as fast as I could. I run my little old truck the hardest I’ve ever run it.”
Hines pulled up behind Miedema’s vehicle, blocking it in. After scanning the property and finding no one else, Hines went to assist Pert and Murr. He took the phone from Murr, who was still talking to the 911 dispatcher, and Murr turned her full attention to Pert.
“I looked at her, and I said, ‘Babe, it’s not our day to die,’” Pert recalled.
A Florida Highway Patrol Trooper was the first on the scene just after 7:45 a.m., about 25 minutes after the 911 call was logged. Dixie County Sherrif’s Office deputies were close behind. Hines waved the officers down the driveway. They rushed in with guns drawn and immediately checked the attacker’s pulse. He was indeed dead.
“Is it him? Is it him?” Pert remembers several of the officers shouting before someone confirmed it was the man they were looking for. At the time, the identity of the attacker was still a complete mystery to Pert and Murr.
Police officers began arriving at the property in droves.
“They started rolling in by the dozens,” Hines recalled. “They had to move the law out of the way to even get the ambulance in.”
Two ambulances arrived, and paramedics began treating Pert’s injuries. They also checked Murr, who says they told her they were concerned she could suffer a heart attack. Pert was loaded into one ambulance, and Murr was told she could ride to the hospital in the other. But that plan simply didn’t work for the couple.
“They saw that that wasn’t going to happen,” Pert said.
By the time the ambulance carrying the couple left for Shands Hospital, the property was teeming with what Murr and Hines estimate to be more than 50 police officers. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement took over the investigation.
At the hospital, doctors discovered that the bones in Pert’s left wrist were badly shattered and that the bullet that entered his left shoulder had lodged near his neck after hitting an artery and shattering his fifth vertebrae. He had significant internal bleeding but was fortunate that no vital organs were hit and that paramedics were able to control the blood loss. Doctors decided to leave both bullets in Pert’s body because they feared removing them would do additional damage.
At the end of the driveway to the Steinhatchee trailer, a piece of paper with “Turn Here” drawn in faded marker hangs on a fence post above an equally worn arrow pointing toward the home. Five feet down the driveway, a sun-bleached sign alerts, “WARNING: 24 HOUR VIDEO SURVEILLANCE,” a notice Murr says hasn’t been true for some time. It dates back to when her family had more cattle on the property. The cameras were removed many years ago.
With fenced pastures on each side, the driveway acts as a funnel — “one way in and one way out,” Pert noted. With Miedema set up behind the cover of two vehicles and looking down the length of the long, open driveway, it was a recipe for carnage.
“He had a tactical setup here like you ain’t never seen,” Hines said. “He had all this clearing around, and he had an open range all the way down that driveway. He’d have killed everybody that came in here.”
Pert spent two days in the hospital with Murr at his side the whole time. As he went through what he half-jokingly estimated to be 100 police interviews, Pert learned more about his attacker and the bloodshed Miedema had evidently planned to unleash.
Police discovered eight firearms that Miedema had brought onto the property. According to FDLE Special Agent April Glover, they included three 9mm handguns, a 5.56x45mm NATO handgun, a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, a .30-30 lever-action rifle, a .22 rifle and the .22 handgun Miedema used in his attack on Pert. According to the police reports, three of the guns were stolen from Miedema’s ex-girlfriend. Police also recovered about 50 pounds of ammunition, two tactical vests, a leg holster and a wooden bat with metal spikes. According to Hines, most of the guns were stacked on the top of Miedema’s vehicle and hidden under a blue blanket along with a machete. Police believe Miedema was planning to hide on the property and ambush officers when they arrived.
Investigators do not know why Miedema was in the area or how long he’d been there, according to Glover. She said he had no known connections to the area. Cellphone records obtained in the investigation revealed that Miedema had likely been in South Carolina and Georgia in the days leading up to the attacks. Another cellphone thought to be connected to Miedema was turned off but had last been traced in Maryland. Police reports included accounts from three individuals who thought they had seen Miedema in the Steinhatchee area within months of the attack. Pert, who had never seen or met Miedema before that morning, thinks the man may have scouted the location and plotted a surprise attack. He believes Miedema was counting on the mobile home being uninhabited, as it must have been if he had explored the property earlier.
By the time Miedema arrived at the property — after shooting Officer Andersen in Taylor County on Tuesday, Feb. 22 — Pert and Murr were likely already in bed for the night. Pert said officers believe Miedema had been setting up the ambush for several hours before the couple became aware of his presence.
“His thought process was to kill and destroy innocent people and, fortunately, he did not succeed in that,” Butler said in the press conference the afternoon after Miedema was killed.
According to Glover, the medical examiner’s report revealed that Miedema received six gunshot wounds, meaning Pert landed five of his six shots with the Taurus and the final shot with Miedema’s gun.
The day after the attack, Pert called the Delta Defense Critical Response Team to report the incident. He had no reason to believe he was being investigated for any wrongdoing, but the peace of mind knowing there were people there to help guide him through the complicated aftermath of a self-defense incident was a large part of why he became a USCCA Member in the first place.
Shortly after that call, Critical Response Team professionals contacted the involved law enforcement entities to get all of the relevant information and to confirm that authorities were not pursuing any charges against Pert. Following those calls, Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett and Florida State Attorney for the Third Circuit John Durrett reached out to Pert to assure him that he was in absolutely no danger of being charged with any crimes for his heroic actions.
With everything else the couple was dealing with in those hectic days, Pert said it was very reassuring to get confirmation “straight from the horse’s mouth” that he was legally cleared.
Long Road to Recovery
Brightly colored animal stickers now cover bullet holes in the trailer’s pantry door, an effort to hide evidence of the attack from Pert and Murr’s grandchildren. A bullet hole that entered the ceiling is still visible inside the pantry, and a turkey cooker that took another bullet was thrown away.
Other repairs were not so simple. The home required significant forensic cleaning following the incident, which cost approximately $2,000. Pert had been told the state would cover those costs, but evidently, in the wake of the incident, required paperwork wasn’t filed in time. He paid out of pocket.
No amount of cleanup will erase the terror that unfolded in that trailer though.
“This was my safe haven,” Murr reflected. “This is where nothing was supposed to happen. Now I can’t even stay here. In a split second — I’m alive, thank God — but I lost where it was safe.”
Murr noted that she, Pert and Ryder have all gained weight in the aftermath of the incident. Ryder has become more defensive of the couple, often growling and barking at strangers they encounter, especially if a stranger is holding something in his or her hands.
Pert continues to recover from his injuries, noting that his biggest remaining hurdle is rehabbing some tendon issues in his wrist. Since having the cast removed after his fractured bones healed, the tendons have been sore and tight, but he’s stretching them regularly and making progress. He may have the bullet fragments removed in the future. Pert expects a full recovery, and he’s getting in plenty of fishing as he works toward that goal.
As hospital bills continue to arrive in his mailbox, Pert isn’t yet comfortable making a guess on where the total will land. The ambulance ride alone was billed at more than $1,700. After factoring in the two-day hospital stay, the significant procedures on his wrist and shoulder, the continuing follow-up appointments, and more, he’s bracing for that final tally.
Before Pert was taken away in the ambulance on the day of the incident, police seized his gun, holster and clothing for evidence. Glover returned the gun and holster to Pert’s Taylor County home in July. The FDLE destroyed the clothing, along with other evidence, in August as part of the final steps in closing the case.
Pert and Murr went to a few therapy sessions following the incident.
“The wounds, they heal, but the inside stuff takes a little longer,” Pert confided. “You lose trust in people.”
Murr, who has experienced severe PTSD symptoms since the incident, has not been able to return to her job. She is startled easily by loud noises or anything unexpected, and she’s not comfortable being around strangers. She continues to meet with a therapist and has made significant strides toward recovery, noting that talking about the incident with Concealed Carry Magazine was a big step in that process for her. She admitted she still has a long road ahead.
“I don’t know if she’s ever going to be able to go back to being a flight attendant anymore,” Pert said. “I’m hoping one day she can, because she loves doing that.”
Murr’s short-term disability, which covered approximately 60 percent of her wages, recently ended. She was in the process of applying for long-term disability at the time of publication. She noted that she was taking steps to return to work in the fall, but she admitted that goal might be a little ambitious given where things stood in August.
Pert and Murr expect that Florida’s Victim Compensation Program, a trust fund set up to provide financial assistance to victims of violent crime within the state, will cover much of their expenses. Two fundraisers have also helped offset the rising bills. Local businesses in Steinhatchee, led by Kathi’s Krab Shack, raised approximately $11,000 for the couple, and a GoFundMe page set up by Murr’s son has raised an additional $4,640. Donations, which, in part, have helped pay for a new security system and cameras at Pert’s Taylor County home, are still being accepted. As a USCCA Member, Pert could file a claim under the self-defense liability insurance policy1 to help offset some of the expenses, but at the time of publication, he had yet to pursue one. He’s waiting to see where the final bill total lands and to determine how much other assistance he’ll receive.
Pert commended the local communities and law enforcement agencies for being so supportive.
“It’s amazing how they stick together,” he said.
Taylor County Deputy Anderson was in Shands Hospital at the same time as Pert, but the two wouldn’t get a chance to meet until a few weeks later. Anderson had extensive surgeries on his left hand and left jaw, according to an update from his wife, Heather Anderson.2 A WFSU report indicated he also went through facial reconstructive surgery.3
Less than 24 hours after he was shot, Anderson gave a thumbs up after being notified in his hospital room that his K-9, Atlas, was OK and that his attacker was no longer on the run. A picture of the gesture posted by a family friend was shared almost 200 times on Facebook.4 The Taylor County Sheriff’s Department posted a picture of Atlas visiting Anderson in the hospital a few days later.5
“Keep praying, it’s working!!” a message from Anderson’s wife read beneath the picture.
Anderson returned home from the hospital on Monday, March 7, 2022. A substantial escort, including a variety of police, fire department and emergency vehicles, led Anderson all the way from Gainesville to Perry — about 90 miles in total.
Pert and Anderson met at Kathi’s Krab Shack soon after.
“He was there with his wife and family, and I got to shake his hand,” Pert said. “We took pictures together.”
A few weeks later, Pert was invited to a dinner that included eight Florida county sheriffs and a wide variety of law enforcement personnel, including FDLE officials. At the event, Pert was recognized for his heroic actions, named an honorary deputy of Taylor County and awarded an official badge and picture ID.
“I was lost for words,” Pert said. “All I could do is thank them. It brought tears to my eyes to be honest with you. For me, it was one heck of an honor.”
Assist From Above
Looking back, Pert wouldn’t change much about the way he handled the situation at the mobile home this past February — aside from possibly filling his magazine completely and keeping a round in the chamber beforehand. He believes it took some help from a higher power for him and Murr to escape with their lives.
“I truly believe we had a guardian angel with us that morning, because [Miedema] never hit me in any vital spots as close as he was shooting at me,” Pert said. “That’s a miracle to me.”
Ryder gets credit for an enormous assist as well.
“Oh, he got a steak dinner the next night by himself,” Pert said. “I gave him the whole steak.”
Pert, who has carried a concealed handgun for self-defense for many years, is certain how the attack would have unfolded if he hadn’t had his Taurus that day.
“Me and you wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said.
Pert appreciates that the USCCA was there for him following the incident and values the education and training offered to him through his USCCA membership.
“I just think it’s a great organization for people that carry a weapon and want to try to protect themselves and their families,” he said.
Pert certainly falls into that category, and it’s the primary reason he’s alive today.
“He woke up this morning not expecting to have to go through this,” Sheriff Butler said at the Feb. 23 press conference. “No one expects that. But he was prepared, and he gets to live this evening and embrace his loved ones at his home.”
When asked if Pert’s actions that day saved the lives of law enforcement officers, Glover was succinct.
“Absolutely,” she replied.
For his part, Pert wishes with all his heart that it never came to shooting another person, but Miedema left him with no choice.
“I hate that I took a human life,” he said. “I really feel bad, and I hate that. But I don’t feel bad taking this guy, because this guy needed to be stopped.”
Pert drew a deep breath, reflecting on everything he and Murr have overcome.
“I guess it went down the way God intended it to go down,” he said.
(1) Insurance has been purchased by the USCCA and is one of the benefits of membership in the USCCA. USCCA Members are additional insureds under a policy issued to the USCCA by Universal Fire & Casualty Insurance Company, an insurance company with its principal place of business in Hudsonville, Michigan. Coverage and benefits are subject to the benefits, conditions and exclusions of the insurance policy. Information provided herein is for informational purposes and is not intended to be a representation of coverage that may exist in any particular situation. Contact Delta Defense’s Customer Engagement Team at 1-800-674-9779 with any questions.
(2) Visit Heather Anderson’s GoFundMe page here: GoFundMe.com/f/deputy-anderson-recovery-fund.
(3) Brett Rutherford, “A man suspected of shooting a Taylor County deputy has been shot dead,” WFSU, Feb. 23, 2022, News.WFSU.org/state-news/2022-02-23/man-suspected-of-shooting-taylor-county-deputy-shot-dead.
(4) Steven Morgan, “Proof you can’t keep a good man down,” Facebook, Feb. 23, 2022, Facebook.com/steven.morgan.90281/posts/7541970295816752.
(5) Taylor County Sheriff’s Office, “Update from Mrs. Anderson on K-9 Deputy Troy Anderson’s condition as of Sunday, February 27th,” Facebook, Feb. 28, 2022, Facebook.com/taylorcountyflsheriff/posts/320529540108381.