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Home of NCT student shot by deputy burns down

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Published:   |   Updated: April 26, 2013 at 12:38 PM
SPRING HILL -

The home of a Nature Coast Technical High School student who was shot twice by a Hernando County deputy in February was gutted by a fire Thursday afternoon.

The home, at 4251 Dristol Ave., is where Joey Berrios, 18, lives. Responders say he was taken into protective custody after walking out of a home a few doors down after the fire was brought under control.

A young man could be seen in the back seat of a deputy’s patrol car and was removed from the scene.

Berrios is a three-time All-County selection at inside linebacker for the Sharks football team, and led them in tackles as a sophomore and a junior, but did not play as much his senior year due to an ankle injury.

Responders said the young man being taken into protective custody had nothing to do with the fire. Responders also said nobody was injured, and that there were oxygen tanks in the home that posed a danger.

A man at the scene who said he was the homeowner declined comment. There are about a half-dozen residents listed as living in the home. The Red Cross was called in to assist the family with finding a place stay as the residence was destroyed.

Rosa Buckner lives right behind the house and was one of the first to call 911.

“It started in the back,” Buckner said. “I thought they were cooking, then I saw — boom — black. It’s just sad. I almost had a heart attack. I was so scared.”

Veronica Perez and her boyfriend, Louis Bermudez, live down the road.

“How it started, it was the scariest thing, because we saw the grass burn and it could have started with just the flick of a cigarette,” Perez said. “It’s sad to go to work and come home to this.”

“I just wanted to make sure everyone got out OK, because a house can be replaced, but lives can’t,” she added.

Bermudez and Perez said they hope there will be a fundraiser to help the family.

“I’m at a loss of words,” Bermudez said. “It’s just really sad seeing what these people have to go through now, because my girlfriend and I are standing here watching it burn, and I give the fire department all the credit for keeping it controlled.”

Berrios was charged in February with battering a deputy.

Deputy Ramona Fuhs shot Berrios twice in his legs, shattering his femur, after she said he came at her in an aggressive manner and hit her in her head and neck area.

In April, Peyton Hyslop entered a plea of “not guilty” for Berrios.

Berrios was unable to appear in court at the time, Hyslop said; however, his client’s health has been improving, and was expected to return to school in mid-April.

Fuhs was initially placed on paid administrative leave, which is protocol following use of deadly force. However, she was cleared to return to full duty March 22, and less than a month after the shooting.

As of this month, the investigation into Fuhs’ decision to use deadly force against Berrios remains open, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Berrios’ next scheduled court appearance is set for Aug. 8 in Hernando County Circuit Court.

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