Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014
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Teen shot by cop given house arrest in battery case

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BROOKSVILLE - Joseph Berrios, a former Nature Coast Technical high school student and football standout, was sentenced to two years house arrest by Judge Stephen Toner Thursday afternoon.

The 19-year-old was shot twice in the leg by Hernando County Sheriff's Deputy Ramona Fuhs on Feb. 27, 2013, after an incident on Candler Avenue.

Berrios was treated for injuries at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and released. He wasn't allowed back at school, according to his mother, Barbara Berrios, who testified during the change of plea hearing.

Barbara Berrios said in the months before the shooting, her son confided in her he was suffering from social anxiety. He seemed to take a turn after being "jumped" behind Hernando High School and had to have his mouth wired shut.

He became a different person, Barbara Berrios said, and the night of the shooting, her son's friend called her worried about his behavior.

When she went to pick him up, Berrios was on his knees on his friend's porch, asking if she saw Jesus and the heavens open up, and refused to leave with her.

Barbara Berrios said she was on the phone with 911 to have her son involuntarily committed when she heard "every cop in Hernando County speeding past" her house.

Dispatchers had received multiple calls of a person acting erratic, and when Deputy Ramona Fuhs arrived on scene and got out of her cruiser, Berrios started walking toward her.

"He was yelling something I couldn't decipher, and appeared very angry," Fuhs said.

According to the deputy, Berrios slammed the deputy's car door into her and started throwing punches, and threatened to kill her. The two shots didn't immediately subdue Berrios, Fuhs said.

"He said 'you shot me you f------ b---- , I'm going to kill you," Fuhs said, before he eventually went to the ground.

Fuhs said she suffered swelling in her head from being punched, and temporary hearing loss. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement cleared Fuhs of the shooting in April 2013.

Berrios' former coach, Charles Liggett, told the court Thursday that Berrios was one of the leaders on his team, a three-time All-County linebacker and a respectful person who would have had a future in football.

"I don't excuse any of his actions, but ... something was changing in him," Liggett said.

In a brief statement, Berrios offered an apology.

"I would never put my hands on a female in my right mind," Berrios said.

Toner withheld Berrios' adjudication on the battery on a law enforcement charge, and sentenced him to two years house arrest. As part of the conditions, Berrios was ordered to continue mental health counseling, not to have contact with Fuhs and write her a letter of apology within 60 days.

wbiddlecombe@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5283

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