BRANDON — Two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies were seriously injured Thursday when a man intentionally ran into them with a car after they were called to his Brandon home, Sheriff Chad Chronister said.
Both deputies were hospitalized; one may lose a leg. The driver who ran into them, who has a documented history of mental health problems, faces attempted murder charges.
Sheriff’s officials released surveillance videos taken from nearby homes, which show the moment that the car rammed into the pair, shoving them against a sheriff’s office SUV. Body camera footage from other deputies showed the man stepping out of the car and walking toward the other deputies before being subdued with stun guns.
“He chose today to use his car as a weapon,” Chronister said in a news conference. “These deputies never had a chance. They didn’t have a chance to get out of the way.”
The incident began at 7:44 a.m., when the man’s mother called 911. She said her son was being violent and irrational and kicking in doors throughout the house. Fearing for her safety, she asked that deputies be sent to help her, the sheriff said.
Two deputies arrived shortly thereafter outside the home at 1102 Dexwell Court, which is in a cul-de-sac in the sprawling Heather Lakes subdivision, south of Lumsden Road.
Cpl. Carlos Brito and Deputy Manuel Santos found 28-year-old Ralph Bouzy in the driver’s seat of a parked Nissan Altima.
“They try to establish a rapport,” Chronister said. “They try to deescalate the situation. He wants nothing to do with the deputies. He won’t roll the window down. He won’t open up the door. He won’t even engage in conversation.”
Instead, Bouzy put the car in reverse and sped away.
“The suspect was free to leave,” Chronister said. “He was only a threat to himself. He was gone.”
But Bouzy soon returned. Two additional deputies were there by the time he pulled up. As the Nissan approached, the deputies had to jump between their patrol cars to avoid being hit. Back in the cul-de-sac, Bouzy sped up, aiming his car directly at the other two deputies, who stood next to a sheriff’s SUV, Chronister said.
The Nissan slammed into both Brito and Santos. Brito was pinned between the car and the sheriff’s SUV. Part of his thigh bone was stuck in the car, and his leg may need to be amputated, the sheriff said. Santos also suffered severe leg injuries.
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Body camera videos depict both deputies writhing on the ground immediately after the collision. One deputy appears to point a gun at Bouzy as he steps out of the driver’s seat. Screams can be heard.
The two other deputies first pointed guns, then drew stun guns as they ordered Bouzy to the ground. He ignored them. He then fell as the weapons deployed. The deputies placed him in handcuffs.
He was arrested on three counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
Evidence markers dotted the pavement in Dexwell Court, and a silver Nissan with heavy front-end damage sat against a marked sheriff’s SUV.
Brito and Santos were taken to Tampa General Hospital. Both underwent surgery late Thursday morning.
A half-dozen sheriff’s cruisers were parked outside the hospital in the afternoon.
Deputy Johnmichael Lee had been waiting there for about two hours.
”One of them is my best friend,” he said. “They’re not telling us anything.”
Detective Joe Conteh said the situation inside the emergency room was “chaos.”
”I stood there for a while,” he said. “It was too much going on.”
Records indicate that Bouzy has a history of mental illness. Hillsborough court records show his name linked with 18 mental health cases, including four that were filed this year. He also has five prior arrests, the most recent in 2018.
A 2015 criminal case included allegations similar to what Bouzy was accused of doing Thursday.
On Feb. 9 that year, deputies responded to a hit-and-run crash at Falkenburg Road and Causeway Boulevard. They found a car matching the description of the suspect vehicle, a black Nissan Altima, near the intersection of Lumsden and Providence roads.
Bouzy was behind the wheel and driving erratically. At Lumsden Road and Heather Lakes Boulevard, he “attempted to ram” a deputy’s marked patrol car, an arrest report states. The deputy had to swerve to avoid a collision.
Deputies caught up with Bouzy at the closed gate of the Paddock Club Apartments and surrounded his car. He put the car in reverse, made a three-point turn and rammed the front bumper of a marked patrol car, then drove away, according to the report.
A sheriff’s sergeant caught up to Bouzy on Lumsden Road, where he drove over the median, then stopped in the middle of the road and got out. The sergeant tried to arrest him, but Bouzy pulled away and took a fighting stance, the report states. The sergeant used a stun gun to subdue him.
Records show the charges in that case were dropped after Bouzy completed a pretrial intervention program.
In 2017, Bouzy was again investigated for crashing into another vehicle and then leaving. Deputies found him inside a Speedway gas station at Lumsden and Providence roads. He ignored their orders to get on the ground and instead removed all his clothing, according to an arrest report. He scuffled with the deputies as they arrested him.
Placed in the back of a patrol car, he uttered that he “hates cops,” and “wants to kill one,” according to an arrest report.
“He was almost successful here today,” Chronister said. “Fortunately, we won’t be planning a funeral.”
Times staff writer Jack Prator contributed to this report.