A Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy crossed the line when he kept shooting at a driver and chased him until he rammed the driver’s car to stop him, his agency has concluded.
Deputy Connor Haugh, 37, violated agency policy last year when Fakeria Phillips, then 38, drove away and Haugh kept shooting, according to a sheriff’s internal affairs report. He also broke policy when he followed Phillips and used his patrol car to ram Phillips’ car, according to the report. Even though the deputy opened fire, nobody was shot in the encounter that happened on Nov. 1, 2019, records show.
Haugh told investigators that he was trying to protect the public: He felt the risk of injuries to civilians posed by Phillips’ driving was too great to allow him to keep going.
Haugh is a veteran officer who started at the Boynton Beach Police Department in 2005 and joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2016. The Sheriff’s Office has suspended Haugh, though the terms of his suspension weren’t available Thursday.
Reached by phone Thursday, Haugh said that he couldn’t comment about the case. A police union representative couldn’t be reached for comment.
Last year, an undercover deputy — not Haugh — had tried to pull over Phillips while he was driving a rented Hyundai. The undercover deputy suspected that Phillips was dealing drugs out of the parking lot of the Barefoot Mailman Motel in Lantana while on federal probation, the records show.
That’s when Phillips backed the car into the undercover deputy’s unmarked patrol car, hitting that deputy with the open door of the Hyundai, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Haugh was nearby on an alternate assignment, heard what was happening over his radio and headed to the scene.
Internal affairs investigators interviewed Haugh and reviewed nearby security camera footage to determine that Haugh’s fears that the other deputy was in imminent danger were “well-founded.”
In an effort to stop Phillips, Haugh shot at one of Phillips’ tires. The internal affairs investigation ruled that those first few shots, when Phillips was still in the parking lot, were justified. But Phillips made it out of the parking lot and drove south in the northbound lanes of Dixie Highway.
Haugh then shot at the car again, hitting one of its tires.
Shooting at a moving vehicle is prohibited under the sheriff’s use-of-force policy, “unless the occupant of a vehicle is using or threatening to use deadly force by means other than the vehicle itself, and the employee reasonably believes there is an imminent threat to life.” The investigation concluded that after Phillips left the parking lot, he was no longer using deadly force.
Haugh opened fire as Phillips was still in the parking lot and then after Phillips left: One witness told investigators it sounded like five or six initial shots and then two or three more afterward.
Haugh got in his marked patrol car, chased Phillips for about eight blocks and rammed the Hyundai with his patrol car, violating the Sheriff’s Office’s policy, which prohibits intentionally striking or ramming cars, unless deadly force is authorized.
The report describes Phillips’ wrong-way driving as “erratic,” but said a deputy using deadly force was no longer authorized after Phillips fled.
After Phillips was apprehended, four cellphones, $1,341 and a “large amount” of illegal drugs, including crack cocaine, oxycodone, heroin and fentanyl were found in his rented car, according to a report.
Phillips was arrested and charged with four counts of intent to distribute drugs, two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, resisting an officer with violence and feeling and eluding, but all charges against him were dropped in January this year.
It wasn’t the first time that Haugh had worked to stop someone. Haugh also was involved in a chaotic, high-profile case from 2018: The deputy fatally shot Hugo Selva, 22, after Selva shot and killed a woman and then drove the wrong way on Interstate 95, resulting in a series of crashes.
Haugh shot and killed Selva after Selva tried ramming his car into a Florida Highway Patrol trooper. He was cleared in that shooting by an internal affairs investigation.
Sun Sentinel writer Mario Ariza contributed to this report.
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