Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

Suspect shot after driving at Hillsborough detective during arrest

SEFFNER — Mike Yuna was standing outside a RaceTrac gas station Tuesday afternoon, sipping a Gatorade and smoking a cigarette when he heard someone scream, "Hands! Hands!" followed by the unmistakable pops of gunfire. He dived behind the ice machine.

Before the shooting, Yuna, 45, had been pondering what roads to walk along while hitchhiking to Fort Lauderdale to see his girlfriend, he said. He hadn't noticed the man with a face covered in tattoos pull into the station at County Road 579 and E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, or the unmarked Hillsborough County sheriff's cars following him.

The man with the tattoos was Justin Wallace Bryant, 25, who was wanted by detectives for several charges of grand theft auto, the Sheriff's Office said. Bryant's criminal record includes 46 felony arrests and least 16 convictions, according to the Sheriff's Office and state records. State records also list 30 different tattoos on Bryant, who told the Sheriff's Office he was a self-employed tattoo artist when he was arrested July 19. The vehicle Bryant was driving — a beige Lincoln Navigator — was one he was suspected of stealing, sheriff's Col. Greg Brown said.

When detectives tried to arrest Bryant about 3:15 p.m., he jumped into the car and tried to drive off, almost running over two detectives in the process, according to Brown. Detectives Pat Saunders and Jeff Fender opened fire, hitting Bryant at least once in the chest, Brown said. Detective William Hyatt, who had also been in the path of the car, dived out of the way and moved a witness to safety, the Sheriff's Office said.

It was unclear Tuesday which detective shot Bryant, who was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. The Sheriff's Office did not release his condition Tuesday evening. Hospital officials could not locate a patient by that name.

Both detectives — Fender, 48, has been with the Sheriff's Office for 18 years; Saunders, 38, is an eight-year veteran — were placed on administrative leave, standard policy in deputy-involved shootings. While the shooting is under investigation, Brown said the detectives acted in accord with Sheriff's Office policy to arrest suspects "as quickly and safely as possible." The decision to stop Bryant at the gas station, Brown said, prevented a potential chase.

"The information we got was that he did not plan on returning to jail," Brown said.

Bryant, who is from the Plant City area, did not have a weapon, although Brown said detectives had been told he was armed. A search of the Navigator would not be completed Tuesday night. The car came to rest diagonally against pump 19. A pool of blood stained the concrete under the driver's side.

The incident converted a suburban street corner into a crime scene Tuesday afternoon, drawing gawkers from those headed to and from nearby stores or Mango Elementary School.

A handful of RaceTrac customers who were there when the shooting happened had their cars stuck behind crime scene tape for hours. RaceTrac employees and customers, who drove away about 7:30 p.m., declined to comment.

Yuna had no car, so he just walked across the street after the shooting and sat on the grass to watch Brown brief reporters. When he heard what caused the shooting, he shook his head.

"When the cops point their guns at you and say, 'Hands,' " Yuna said, "you should probably do what they say."

Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or [email protected]

Comments

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

TAMPA — Three firefighters were injured early Saturday morning while battling a fire at a strip mall on W Waters Avenue, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.Firefighters said the blaze started around 2:45 p.m. in the attic of L.A. Nail Supply, located at ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

LARGO — A Pinellas sheriff’s child protective investigator has been fired and could face criminal charges after an investigation found she made a child custody recommendation to a judge as a favor to a friend.Jayne Johnson, who has worked for the She...
Published: 12/15/17
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men who ran from deputies and shot a dog were captured after a brief pursuit Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.They ditched a stolen car, ran away on foot, crossed through several yards and then tr...
Published: 12/15/17

Tampa bicyclist, 52, dies after being rear-ended by vehicle; no charges

TAMPA — A 52-year-old man riding a bicycle was killed early Friday when he was struck from behind by a car in Seminole Heights, according to Tampa police.The incident took place at about 12:15 a.m. Wayne Kersh, 52, was riding his bicycle in the eastb...
Published: 12/15/17
After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

TAMPA — A 46-year-old man was arrested Friday and accused of setting fire to a vacant Ybor City bathhouse hit by arson at least two other times earlier this year.Two Tampa police officers spotted smoke from the vacant building at 1512 E Eighth Ave. a...
Published: 12/15/17

FHP: Overturned pick-up slowed traffic on northbound Howard Frankland

ST. PETERSBURG — A pick-up truck towing a car onto the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge overturned and crashed on the shoulder, causing back-ups for motorists trying to get to Tampa, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident was reported...
Published: 12/15/17
New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

The Miami Beach-based Animal Recovery Mission has released a video from its undercover abuse investigation at a Central Florida dairy farmThe graphic video, with disturbing images of cows cruelly being beaten, speared, stabbed and burned, was shot by...
Published: 12/15/17

Missing Child Alert canceled for Port St. Lucie girl, 17

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 17-year-old Port St. Lucie girl who was last seen on Thursday.The case involving Heaven Flores has been resolved, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Published: 12/15/17

Hudson pedestrian killed while crossing U.S. 19

HUDSON — A Hudson man was killed Thursday night while crossing U.S. 19.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 59-year-old Gerald Berube was crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. 19 north of Stahl Drive around 6:40 p.m. when he walked into the path ...
Published: 12/15/17