By ELGIN JONES
FORT LAUDERDALE — Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy Erika Huerta, who stars in TLC Network’s Police Women of Broward County reality show, is under investigation for shooting at an unarmed man during a traffic stop.
Huerta remains on the job without restrictions during the probe which is being conducted by BSO’s Internal Affairs division.
“At this time, it’s an ongoing investigation,” said Jim Lejedal, director of media relations for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
The show was not in production and film crews were not on the scene at the time of the shooting.
The incident centered during a Sept. 28 traffic stop during which Huerta fired at least one shot at Marcus Rozier whom she pulled over in Pompano Beach’s Collier City neighborhood. Huerta said she fired out of fear after spotting an “unknown dark-colored object” in Rozier’s hand, while noting also that he was “a black male who appeared to be 6’0 in stature.”
According to her report, Rozier was driving a car with tinted windows with three passengers inside. He was pulled over for having a wrong and expired tag on his car. He did not immediately stop and when he did he and his passengers were ordered to show their hands outside the windows of the vehicle.
Rozier exited the car and was ordered to turn the engine off. He complied and then dropped the keys on the ground and placed his hands on the roof of his car, as ordered. Huerta waited behind the opened door of her patrol car and was holding him at gunpoint until back-up arrived.
What initially led her to pull her weapon is not stated in the reports.
“The driver took his hands out and I observed in his hands an unknown dark-colored object,” Huerta wrote in her report. “I yelled to the driver to drop what he had in his hands, however he exited the vehicle and as he faced me he began extending the arm that held the unknown object. Upon observing the driver’s aggressive stance and demeanor I greatly feared for my life so I fired my duty weapon at the driver’s direction.”
Rozier was not hit and he took off on foot. Huerta called for a search by helicopter and K-9 units. He was apprehended a few blocks away at his girlfriend’s apartment where he had been staying. He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, fleeing, and several traffic-related violations. Prosecutors later dropped the charge of assault on a law enforcement officer.
No gun was found in the car, around the scene or inside the apartment where Rozier was arrested. During questioning, he told detectives that he did not have a gun and that he ran out of fear after being fired upon for what he said was no reason.
Rozier has an extensive criminal record and was out on pre-trial release when the incident occurred.
“He and his passengers have a different version of what happened compared to the information that’s in her report,” Rozier’s attorney Gordon Weekes, chief assistant public defender, said.
Weekes said Rozier complied with all of Huerta’s commands. “She told him to put down his cell phone, which was in a blue case,” Weekes said. “He handed it to his girlfriend, who was a passenger in the front seat, and he was shot at. He did not have a gun.”
“It is normal to run when you think someone is trying to kill you, and for no reason,” Weekes said. “The report is written as if she had been coached by someone trying to justify the shooting. I don’t know why you would have your gun drawn over an expired tag, in the first place.”
In her report, Huerta said Rozier did not immediately stop when she activated her lights and siren. That made her suspicious and the fact that she was the only deputy on the scene contributed to her fears, she wrote.
“Not only did the driver have the ability to shoot at me, but his mere stature of about 6’0 and stocky build were other factors that attributed to the well-founded fear I felt,” Huerta wrote. “As stated previously, I observed the driver as a black male who appeared to be 6’0 in stature and was wearing a white shirt with dark colored shorts.”
Weekes said fear does not justify the shooting.
After the Internal Affairs investigation is completed, the findings will be reviewed by a use of force review advisory committee and possibly the state attorney’s office.
Huerta has been a deputy for four years and earns a $50,128 annual salary. She makes $7,500 per season for her role in Police Women of Broward County.
**Pictured above is TLC Network star and Broward Sheriff's Deputy Erika Huerta, left, and Marcus Rozier, right.