Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Suspect shot after driving at Hillsborough detective during arrest

Justin Bryant, 25, was shot Tuesday outside a gas station and taken to Tampa General.

Justin Bryant, 25, was shot Tuesday outside a gas station and taken to Tampa General.

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

Suspect shot after driving at Hillsborough detective during arrest 08/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 8:07am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida joins other states in ending 'tampon tax'


    From our friends at the Associated Press:

  2. Rubio, Nelson propose expansion of federal judgeships


    WASHINGTON - Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson today proposed adding a number of federal judges to the state.

  3. Bar review: The Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg

    Bars & Spirits

    I've spent many evenings in St. Pete's Jannus Live courtyard, enjoying one of the best open-air venues in the Tampa Bay area. It's where I saw my first concert in Florida: Toadies, on the Rubberneck tour sometime in the mid '90s.

    The drinks at the Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg are about as cheap as you’ll find at any other regular downtown bar, a nice surprise.
  4. Local craft beer of the week: Two Henrys Belleview-Biltmore Blueberry Vanilla Wheat

    Bars & Spirits

    Two Henrys Brewing Company is a unique entity in the Tampa Bay brewing scene, due to both its status as the only brewery in Plant City, as well as its location on a 27-acre working farm, which also includes a winery.

    Photo by Justin Grant
  5. Trump vows to crack down on Manchester leaks, chastises NATO


    BRUSSELS — President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to crack down on leaks that prompted Manchester police to withhold information from the United States about the investigation into this week's bombing. He also chastised NATO leaders for not paying their fair share to protect the long-standing alliance.

    U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by European Council President Donald Tusk as he arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Thursday, May 25, 2017. Trump arrived in Belgium on Wednesday evening and will attend a NATO summit as well as meet EU and Belgian officials. [Associated Press]