Lawmakers will again weigh paying $10M to Broward deputy who survived avoidable shooting
Former Broward Deputy Maury Hernandez shortly after being released from the hospital. Image via Broward County Sheriff's Office.

Maury Hernandez Broward Sheriff's Office 2
The man who shot him should have already been behind bars.

More than 15 years after former Broward County Deputy Maury Hernandez suffered permanent injuries in an entirely preventable shooting, state lawmakers will again be asked to consider paying him damages.

Port Orange Sen. Tom Wright and Hialeah Rep. Alex Rizo are sponsoring twin bills (SB 20, HB 6003) that would clear $10 million to Hernandez, who in August 2007 suffered life-altering gunshot-inflicted brain injuries.

A subsequent Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) investigation determined that the man who shot Hernandez should have already been behind bars. Instead, he was out on the street, thanks to the negligence of his parole officer and the Florida Department of Corrections.

The legislation by Wright and Rizo is known as a claims bill or “relief act” and is intended to compensate a person for injuries or losses caused by the negligence or error of a public officer or agency.

Claims bills arise when appropriate damages exceed what’s allowable under Florida’s sovereign immunity laws, which protect government agencies from costly lawsuits. State law currently limits what can be paid without legislative action to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident, though lawmakers have been trying to raise those payout caps.

In addition to clearing $10 million to Hernandez, the legislation would also waive all existing interests the state holds in liens against him for treatment and care he received due to the shooting.

Just before noon on Aug. 6, 2007, Hernandez, then 28, was on his way to work in an unmarked vehicle when he witnessed a man on a motorcycle run three red lights on Pembroke Road. Hernandez pursued and pulled over the motorist, David Maldonado, who falsely identified himself as an Opa-locka city police officer before fleeing on foot.

Hernandez gave chase on foot as well until Maldonado turned and fired two rounds from a .45-caliber handgun, one of which hit Hernandez in the head.

The injury left lasting physical and financial hardship. After a year of arduous physical, occupational, speech, visual and cognitive therapy, among other treatments, Hernandez was left with a partially paralyzed arm, head scarring and a limp, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. He attempted to return to work at the BSO but was unable to do so, the legislation said, and as a result he lost his $60,000 annual salary and “generous benefits,” including medical and life insurance.

That led to “significant economic damages,” according to the legislation, which said Hernandez today faces “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in liens for uncovered medical costs.

None of this would have happened had those in the government responsible for the probation of Maldonado, whom Hollywood police arrested just hours after the incident, done their jobs properly.

Less than four months earlier, Maldonado pleaded no contest to felony traffic charges and received a 24-month probation sentence. Between then and then and shooting, the BSO found he accrued 40 traffic and administrative violations — including reckless driving, driving without a license, unauthorized possession of a firearm and use of nonprescribed drugs — of which his parole officer, Duante Foster, failed to notify the Broward State Attorney’s Office and presiding circuit court judge.

“To this day, the department has never explained why its zero-tolerance policy on reporting violations of supervision conditions was not enforced with regard to Mr. Maldonado,” the legislation said. “The State Attorney’s Office maintains that if Mr. Maldonado’s violations had been so reported, he would have been jailed without bail and not on the streets at the time that he shot Deputy Hernandez.”

On Dec. 20, 2008, Broward Circuit Judge Martin Bidwill sentenced Maldonado to life in prison for attempted first-degree murder. The Florida Supreme Court in 2012 declined to hear Maldonado’s appeal of the judgment after the Fourth District Court of Appeal passed on the matter

Roughly a year later Hernandez sued the Department of Corrections, but the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward dismissed the case. The court decided that despite the department’s failure to follow its stated policies and procedures, it “owed no duty of care” to Hernandez. Appeals of that decision “would be fruitless,” the legislation said, “and only cause further delay in addressing the wrongs that have been inflicted” on him.

Since then, several lawmakers have taken up Hernandez’s cause. In 2017, former Sen. Oscar Braynon and former Rep. Evan Jenne, both of Broward, filed measures in their respective chambers to secure $10 million for Hernandez. Last year, Sen. Shevrin Jones of Miami Gardens carried the measure with no companion bill in the House. All died without receiving a single committee hearing.

This year’s attempt has the added support of Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony and the local police union — something Hernandez’s longtime lawyer, Lance Block, told CBS Miami is “hugely helpful.”

“They’re reaching out to people, legislators,” he said. “We’re not just alone.”

Hernandez told CBS it’s “extremely frustrating” that he is still awaiting relief he and many others believe is due to him.

“I don’t want to be in this situation,” he said. “I would have hoped something like this would have been solved years ago.”

Should the claims bill win approval this year, the amount awarded will serve as “sole compensation for all present and future claims” related to the shooting. The legislation also provides that no more than 25% of the award can go to attorney fees.

There are a couple additional, complicating wrinkles to this story. In February 2013, police arrested Hernandez on charges of felony battery by strangulation of his then-newlywed wife, former Miami-Dade police officer Yvonne Linen. Hernandez and the court ultimately reached a sentencing-diversion deal in which he agreed to enter a domestic violence intervention program for six months and submit to tests. The court at the time directed him to stay away from Linen and their son.

One year before, in January 2012, Hernandez shot a homeless man at a shopping center in Miami Lakes after he said the man became aggressive toward him and his family. The Miami Herald reported that Hernandez fired his registered gun several times at the man, who survived the incident.

Police did not charge Hernandez.

Florida Politics contacted the offices of Wright and Rizo for comment but received no response by press time.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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