SUNRISE — A police officer who fired his gun at a woman as she drove by him in her SUV has been placed on administrative leave.
Barbara E. Henry, 59, of Sunrise, suffered cuts and bruises from the shattering glass of her vehicle’s window, but the bullet did not strike her. “I was on my way to work and drove slowly past all the police, who had their lights flashing,” said Henry, a nursing assistant. “I heard a loud bang, and glass flew all over me. I was bleeding, and thought I was shot. The police dragged me out of the car, threw me on the ground, and handcuffed me.”
Henry has not been charged with a crime.
Plantation police officer Miguel Lopez has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the Monday, Feb. 8 incident.
Sunrise Police spokesman Lt. Brian Gerity said Henry refused the officer’s command to stop, then hit him with her vehicle as she tried to avoid a check point, according to published reports. That’s when Lopez responded by firing one shot at her through the driver’s side window.
Here’s what happened, according to police:
Plantation police had chased two alleged purse snatching suspects into neighboring Sunrise, and set up a network of officers to catch the suspects in the area of the 6100 block of West Sunrise Blvd. Sunrise police joined the effort to locate the suspects. Lopez was manning a perimeter point on Sunset Strip, near West Sunrise Boulevard. Henry was driving south on Sunset Strip on her way to work at around 10:30 p.m. when she came upon the operation.
“I was driving slow, because I thought there was an accident. The next thing I know, I heard this loud bang,” Henry explained.
Plantation police referred all calls about the incident to the Sunrise Police Department.
“I’ve been directed to forward all inquiries to the city of Sunrise, which is unusual, but they are handling the investigation,” Plantation police spokesman Robert Rettig said.
Sunrise police did not immediately respond to calls and emails from the South Florida Times.
Henry disputes the police version. She said she has no criminal record, and has never been arrested. She said she did not hit or try to avoid anyone at the scene.
“I was screaming and telling them, ‘I am a nurse and I’m on my way to work,’ but they told me I was shot by mistaken identity,” she said.
Henry said paramedics were called, and they rushed her to the hospital, where police seized her cell phone. The 1999 Ford Explorer SUV she was driving was impounded, but was released on Wednesday.
Henry’s attorney said he is filing records requests, and will begin an effort to obtain surveillance video footage from nearby businesses.
“My client was shot at, and for no apparent reason,” said attorney Johnny McCray Jr. “She did not hit anyone, and the shot was fired through the driver’s side window, which raises a lot of other questions why shots were fired in the first place.”
Henry was treated for cuts and bruises at Plantation General Hospital and released.
She said she is having nightmares about the shooting.
“I’m traumatized,” she said. “I can’t sleep, and it’s all I think about.”
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Barbara Henry