Thursday, May 24, 2018
Public safety

Authorities say man shot in Spring Hill after threatening deputy

SPRING HILL — Rich Reiter heard someone running around his neighborhood Wednesday night shouting "Nature Coast."

He didn't think too much of it. The 30-year-old Reiter thought someone was just having a bonfire or throwing a party.

But five minutes later, he heard something a lot more ominous: Pop. Pop.

Gunshots.

He went to his window and looked outside.

A man, later identified as 18-year-old Joseph Ryan Berrios, a Nature Coast Technical High School student and standout football player, lay on his front yard. Hernando County sheriff's Deputy Ramona Fuhs stood nearby, weapon drawn.

"She was yelling, 'Don't move; stay on the ground,' " Reiter recalled Thursday morning from outside his home. "He was still laying on the ground yelling."

Reiter called 911, but deputies were already on the way. Vehicles quickly flooded Candler Avenue.

Berrios remained hospitalized Thursday, but authorities said he was expected to live. They declined to say where or how many times Berrios was shot, or whether he had a weapon.

Fuhs was also taken to the hospital, where she was treated and released. The Sheriff's Office declined to give the exact nature of her injuries.

Fuhs has been employed with the Sheriff's Office since November 2011. She had not been involved with any previous shootings, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney.

Many of the details of what led up to Wednesday night's shooting were not made public.

Authorities said Fuhs was dispatched to the 4000 block of Candler Avenue — south of Elgin Boulevard and east of Mariner Boulevard — about 8:50 p.m. to investigate a call about a suspicious person.

Fuhs was the first deputy to arrive. Berrios, whom the Sheriff's Office described as aggressive, attacked her. She then shot him.

Berrios faces a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting, as the Sheriff's Office conducts an internal affairs investigation. Fuhs was placed on paid administrative leave.

Several residents in the neighborhood reported hearing a commotion before the shooting.

Tony Rollo, 55, lives across the street.

He said he had been hearing weird noises earlier in the evening.

About 9 p.m., he said, he heard yelling and decided to get up to investigate.

"As soon as I looked out the window, I heard the gunshots," Rollo said.

He hit the ground.

Eventually, he looked up.

Fuhs was yelling, "Stay down, stay down."

Berrios was shouting something about "Nature Coast" and "NTC."

Brooksville lawyer Peyton Hyslop was retained to represent Berrios.

Doctors changed the teenager's medication a week ago, the family told Hyslop's office staff.

On Wednesday night, Berrios was hanging out at a friend's house when he started acting strangely. The friend called Berrios' mom, asking her to come and pick him up, Hyslop said.

When his mother arrived, Berrios continued to behave oddly. He pointed up to the sky and said he could see heaven, Hyslop said.

Berrios refused to leave with his mother, so she left to go get her husband. In the meantime, the couple called 911 because they felt their son needed to be taken into protective custody.

Before they returned, Berrios had been shot. One bullet shattered a bone in his leg; the other struck him in the leg and buttocks, Hyslop said.

Berrios, who goes by Joey, is well known at Nature Coast and in the high school athletics community.

He established himself as one of Hernando County's top linebackers during his high school football career. He earned honorable mention all-North Suncoast honors from the Tampa Bay Times each of the past three seasons.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound athlete racked up 85 tackles last fall as a senior, despite missing time with an injury. He tallied 11 sacks and almost 300 tackles over three varsity seasons for the Sharks.

Wednesday's incident was the first shooting involving a sheriff's deputy in Hernando County since two off-duty law enforcement officers shot and killed 42-year-old Inga Marie Swanson in October.

The two officers — a Hernando detective and a Tampa police officer — were cleared in the shooting. They were later given the Medal of Valor by the Hernando Sheriff's Office.

Swanson, who was naked at the time, was growling and speaking incoherently. She was armed with a broken, antique single-shooter with no bullet.

Staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

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