"You point a gun at an officer, he's going to do whatever he needs to do to protect his life."
By Macollvie Jean-Francois and Paula McMahon
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A chase following a report of men wielding assault weapons at a party ended with one man mortally wounded by a patrol officer early Sunday.
The officer who shot Timothy Jermaine Brown, 35, of Fort Lauderdale, had tried to stop the car Brown was driving, but Brown tried to flee and pointed a weapon at the officer, said Fort Lauderdale police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa.
At first, police said Brown was expected to recover. But after surgery later Sunday, he died - an unexpected blow to relatives and friends who had left the waiting room at Broward General Medical Center after police told them Brown would live.
"The roles could have easily been reversed," Sousa said of the incident. "It continues to show a disregard for the safety of law enforcement officers. You point a gun at an officer, he's going to do whatever he needs to do to protect his life and the lives of the people around him."
Brown, a convicted felon who served time for manslaughter and drug-dealing, had been staying out of trouble, his longtime friend Calvin Jones said. The father of three was happily working as a telemarketer and going to church, according to Jones.
The shooting happened about 3:40 a.m., a few hours after local agencies received a bulletin alerting officers to be on the lookout for a black Hyundai whose occupants had a machine gun, Sousa said. The "officer safety" bulletin from the Broward Sheriff's Office said four men had brandished high-powered assault weapons at a party near Northwest 27th Avenue and 15th Street.
The Fort Lauderdale police officer saw a black Hyundai in southwest Fort Lauderdale and put on his lights to pull the car over, Sousa said. Brown, who was driving with one passenger, eventually pulled up on the lawn of a house in the 400 block of Southwest 30th Terrace in Melrose Manor.
Both occupants refused the officer's orders to stop and show their hands, Sousa said. Instead, the men rifled through the car, one telling his partner to "grab" an item, and Brown came out of the car holding something close to his body, Sousa said.
The pair reportedly ran between two houses. As the lone officer followed, Sousa said, one man yelled for his partner to shoot the officer.
Brown turned around and pointed a weapon at the officer, Sousa said. The officer fired, striking Brown.
Beth Stewart, who lives in a home beside the shooting scene, said she heard loud voices, someone saying "don't move," and three gunshots.
"Pow. Pow. Pow," Stewart recounted. "I was just scared. I didn't know what was going on."
Stewart woke her adult son and both went outside. At the side of her house, Stewart said, Brown lay on the ground near the open gate of a backyard fence. He was silent.
"I was in shock," Stewart said. "I've never seen anything like that."
Within moments, other residents said, dozens of police cars from various agencies arrived to search for the second suspect. Officials put the neighborhood on lockdown for several hours as officers on foot with trained dogs and in a helicopter combed the streets. As of late Sunday, they had not found the second man.
Sousa said he could not reveal whether any weapons were recovered at the shooting scene and said police would execute a search warrant on the Hyundai today. The officer involved, whose name was not released, will likely be placed on paid administrative leave while detectives investigate, a routine procedure. The officer joined the force almost two years ago.
Sousa said police have a heightened sense of awareness of the need to respond decisively to threats, given recent fatal shootings of law enforcement officers.
To some, the Brown shooting sparked memories of aggressive policing tactics in black neighborhoods.
While waiting to see Brown at the hospital Sunday, relatives questioned the police account of the shooting.
"We all understand the police have a job to do," said Brown's aunt, Helen Roland. "A routine traffic stop does not give an officer a license to put a bullet in a man's chest."
Timothy Brown served more than five years in prison on manslaughter and drug-dealing convictions starting in June 2000, according to records of the New Jersey Corrections Department. He was released on parole in December 2005. In 1999, he was convicted of prowling and loitering in Broward County, according to Florida criminal records.
Brown had learned from his experiences, his friend Jones said, and he would not point a weapon at a police officer.
According to Jones, Brown had been at Club Kutters in Fort Lauderdale, where he was a regular on Saturday nights, before the police chase and the shooting.
City Commissioner Carlton Moore said he would ask for a review. Moore has been a vocal critic of police after past controversial shootings of the city's black residents.
"That's automatic, it's just a matter of when," he said of his request for a review. "It's sad that anybody ever loses their life."
Fort Lauderdale Police ask that anyone with information about the second suspect call them at 954-828-5700 or contact Broward County Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 954-493-8477
Staff Writer Paula McMahon contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2008 Sun-Sentinel
Man fatally shot by pursuing Fla. police