Deputies in Broward County, Fla., are coming under fire from a man who says he was shot multiple times by police while he was napping in a car.
The deputies have a different take on the March 8 incident. They say they feared for their lives because Brandon Johnson, 21, of Pompano Beach, Fla., drove his borrowed Toyota Echo at them, WPTV reported.
A complaint affidavit about the incident states that Detective Ron Miller and Detective Andrea Penoyer Tianga, a cast member on the TLC reality TV show "Police Women of Broward County," were patrolling Pompano Beach in an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe when they observed a "suspicious vehicle" backed into a parking space.
According to the affidavit, the two deputies observed "a black male in the driver's seat" "attempting to duck down in an effort not to be seen." Miller reportedly pulled the SUV in front of Johnson's car "to initiate a stop" and turned on police lights. The detectives, in tactical gear as part of a Metro Broward Drug Task Force sweep, approached from the driver's side of Johnson's car.
The deputies said they fired after the vehicle accelerated in an aggressive manner toward them. Although Penoyer Tianga was struck in the leg by the Toyota and knocked into a parked vehicle, she did not sustain serious injuries, according to agency spokeswoman Dani Moschella.
However, Johnson told the Sun-Sentinel that the bullets started flying before he fled.
"They didn't order me out of the car," Johnson told the paper. "As soon as [Penoyer Tianga] shot through the windshield and popped me in my mouth, I figured I didn't have to stay there no more anyways. I put the thing in reverse and went over the speed bump and then I drove off with my head down. That's when the glass started popping everywhere."
Johnson, who said he was sleeping in his car because of a conflict with a housemate, lost three teeth when a deputy's bullet entered his mouth and exited through the bottom of his chin.
In addition, chest wounds encircle his heart, an embedded bullet distorts the skin over his right shoulder blade and he coughed up blood two weeks later.
Willie Green, 60, who is Johnson's uncle and legal guardian, believes there is only one reason why the detectives felt compelled to pull a gun on his nephew.
"The truth of the matter is, they were trying to kill him," Green told the Sun-Sentinal, adding that the family wants accountability from the agency.
Johnson has a record that includes three convictions for cocaine possession, twice with intent to sell or distribute. As a juvenile, he resisted arrest with violence. He served about 18 months in jail, Assistant Public Defender Joanna Nagy said. On March 24, he was charged by the Broward Sheriff's Office with cocaine possession. Johnson was released on bond and said the drugs belonged to a friend.
But Johnson's aunt and legal guardian, Rosetta Green, said that he does not carry weapons and his previous record does not warrant the shooting.
"We're not trying to justify anything," his aunt Rosetta Green said. "When Brandon is wrong, Brandon is wrong. We know Brandon wouldn't attack the police. He was trying to get out of the line of fire."
Johnson's shooting marks the second time in five months that a person has been fired at by a star of "Police Women of Broward County." The other case happened Sept. 28, 2011, when Deputy Erika Huerta fired at but missed an apparently unarmed felon who ran after she had pulled him over for a traffic stop.
That case is still open, but a spokesman for the sheriff's office said TV cameras were not filming during either incident.
Johnson scheduled for arraignment on April 17 for the March 8 incident and could face 35 years in prison if convicted.