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Monday, January 23, 2023

Ocala man flees from deputy after failing field sobriety test

A 40-year-old Ocala man is facing several charges, including driving under the influence, after he failed a field sobriety test and fled from a Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

On Saturday, January 21, shortly before 12:55 p.m., an MCSO deputy conducted a traffic stop on a sedan in the 2500 block of SE 58th Avenue in Ocala. According to the MCSO report, the deputy observed that the vehicle’s passenger’s side headlight was out.

The deputy approached the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle, identified in the report as Bennett James Johnson.

Bennett James Johnson
Bennett James Johnson

The MCSO report stated that Johnson’s speech was slurred, and the deputy could smell the “odor of an alcoholic beverage” emitting from inside the vehicle. Johnson initially told the deputy that “he had not had anything to drink.”

Shortly after the arrival of a second deputy at the scene of the traffic stop, Johnson told the first deputy that he would participate in field sobriety exercises.

The first “horizontal gaze” exercise tasked Johnson with tracking the deputy’s movements with his eyes only. The deputy noted in the MCSO report that Johnson had a “lack of smooth pursuit” during the exercise, and he “moved his head while following the stimulus.”

The second exercise tasked Johnson with walking heel-to-toe and turning using an imaginary line. The report stated that Johnson lost his balance and did not touch heel-to-toe on any of the steps. Additionally, Johnson took eight steps forward, conducted an improper turn, and then took nine steps back without counting each of his steps out loud, according to the MCSO report.

The final exercise was the one-leg stand. During this exercise, Johnson counted to ten, swayed from side to side, and placed his foot down. When the deputy reminded Johnson to lift his foot off the ground, Johnson resumed the exercise and counted from eight to ten. He then placed his foot back on the ground and asked the deputy, “How long do I have to do it?”

After the exercises were finished, the deputy asked Johnson if he had anything to drink, and he responded by stating, “I had a couple drinks.” He then retrieved two empty clear bottles labeled “Stroyski” from his center console, and the label indicated that the beverages had an alcohol volume of 21%, according to the MCSO report.

As both deputies on scene attempted to arrest Johnson, he pulled away and entered the driver’s seat of his vehicle. He then fled from the scene, according to the MCSO report.

The first deputy returned to the MCSO patrol vehicle, activated the emergency lights and siren, and initiated a pursuit on SE Baseline Road. The traffic light was red at the intersection of SE Baseline Road and SE 28th Street, and the deputy noted in the report that Johnson drove onto the grass median to avoid the other vehicles that were stopped at the intersection.

After driving through the red light, Johnson failed to slow down while entering the intersection, and he turned westbound onto SE 28th Street. He continued westbound, reached the intersection of SE 28th Street and SE 55th Avenue, and then turned southbound onto SE 55th Avenue.

When Johnson reached the intersection of SE 30th Place, he turned westbound onto the road and parked his vehicle behind his residence in the 5300 block of SE 30th Place. The MCSO report stated that Johnson then ran inside one of the apartments.

A short time after entering the apartment, Johnson stepped outside and was placed under arrest.

Johnson was arrested and transported to Marion County Jail. While at the jail, Johnson agreed to provide two breath samples, which revealed a blood alcohol level of .048 and .051. He refused to provide a urine sample.

After being read his Miranda rights, Johnson refused to speak with an MCSO deputy.

Johnson is currently being held at the jail on $7,000 bond. He is facing a felony charge for fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer with disregard of safety to persons or property, along with misdemeanor charges for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and resisting an officer without violence.

A court date has been scheduled at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, February 21, according to jail records.