Jury acquits former Brevard County deputy accused of murder in alleged road rage incident

A jury has acquitted a former Brevard County deputy who was accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man while off duty in an alleged road rage incident.

Former Brevard County sheriff's deputy Yousef Hafza was charged with attempted murder of Jose Montanez and second-degree murder in the death of Clarence Howard. 

Defense attorney Eric Barker of NeJame Law, put Hafza on the stand Friday. Hofza talked about how the alleged incident went down back in 2016. He told jurors that Montanez and Howard were weaving in and out of lanes, trying to block him.

"As I drove around his car, I rolled down my window and I said, ‘I’m good,  I’m good,’ and he began screaming a bunch of profanities," Hafza explained. 

He said Montanez was leaning out of the car and began jerking the wheel. 

"Howard, who's bigger than him [Montanez] came out of the car and making a straight beeline right at me. " 

"I was terrified, trying to get away from that vehicle."

He said the two men were screaming at him.

Hafza said Howard reached toward his waistband and that’s when Hafza grabbed his gun, shooting Howard multiple times.  He said that was what he was trained to do as a deputy. 

"I lifted my shirt, pulled my firearm, and began firing fast. Within seconds, I fired fast rapid shots."

Prosecutors said Howard didn’t have a gun. The state also questioned why Hafza led the men down a remote road and never identified himself as a law enforcement officer.  They also pressed him on why he didn’t call 911 until much later. 

"It never dawned on me to call 911," he replied.


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