NEW PORT RICHEY — Deputy John Brown is 29 and has only been with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office since April. He makes less than $40,000 a year, works 12-hour graveyard shifts and, just before 1 a.m. Friday, an escaping inmate tried to choke him to death with his handcuffs in a gas station parking lot.
"It was a close call," said Pasco sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin.
The terrifying incident began a few minutes after midnight, at a house on Adare Drive in New Port Richey. A woman who has a domestic violence injunction against Osvaldo Flores called for help, saying he was banging on the door.
Brown arrested Flores, who turns 33 on Wednesday, on charges of violating the domestic violence injunction and possession of marijuana.
He was cuffed with his hands behind his back and put inside the patrol car.
Flores, who has a long arrest record, was released Aug. 1 from a prison term for fleeing to elude law enforcement. He previously served 18 months in prison for cocaine possession, trafficking in stolen property, burglary and grand theft of a motor vehicle.
Pasco court records say two women — each with a child fathered by Flores — have filed domestic violence injunctions against him in recent years.
Brown began driving Flores to the Pasco jail in Land O'Lakes. But less than three miles into the trip, Flores slipped his handcuffs to the front of his body and began kicking out the back cruiser's window, a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report says. As Brown pulled over into a 7-Eleven parking lot at 6926 Little Road, Flores escaped through the window and began running, authorities said.
Brown caught up to him. They fought.
Flores said he wasn't going back to prison and punched and kicked the deputy, a Sheriff's Office report says.
The escapee got behind Brown "and proceeded to choke the victim with his handcuffs in an attempt to cut off the victim's air supply," the report says.
As Brown tried to fight off Flores, a person dove into the fight and helped subdue Flores until backup deputies arrived.
Brown was bruised, but finished his shift, Tobin said.
He was not available for interviews Friday. There was also no information available from the Sheriff's Office about the person who stepped in to help Brown.
Flores was charged with attempted murder, escape and — for the damaged patrol car — criminal mischief, in addition to his previous charges.
"He's lucky to be alive," Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said of Flores. "He tried to kill one of our deputies."
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.