Osceola sheriff inspecting patrol cars after fatal crash

Dodge Charger had prior brake failure, report shows

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The Osceola County Sheriff's Office has temporarily taken at least two patrol cars off the road for brake inspections following a fatal crash involving another deputy's Dodge Charger.

A 34-year-old Clermont man was killed Friday when an Osceola County sheriff's deputy struck his pickup truck from behind near Walt Disney World, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Several cars were stopped at the intersection of U.S. 192 and Lindsfields Boulevard when Deputy Gloria Boccio, 29, struck the back of a 2013 Ford pickup truck, Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson Kim Montes said.

The driver of the pickup, identified as Robert Johnston, was airlifted to Osceola Regional Medical Center, where he died, Montes said.

FHP is still investigating what caused the fatal crash.

The Dodge Charger assigned to Boccio had been taken to the dealership about 10 days earlier because the "brakes failed," a work order obtained by News 6 shows.

According to an invoice from Napleton's South Orlando Dodge dealership, mechanics were told the brakes “fail to be applied” and the "pedal goes to the floor sometimes."

After road-testing the vehicle for about eight miles, mechanics were unable to duplicate the issue, according to the invoice.

The patrol car assigned to Boccio was relatively new, with 4,430 miles on it when it was taken to the dealership for warranty work, records show.

Three days after the deadly collision, a supervisor with the Osceola County Sheriff's Office sent an email to deputies asking if anyone else had experienced brake problems with their Dodge Charger patrol vehicles, News 6 has learned.

At least one deputy responded, saying his car experienced "brake fade" Oct. 2, according to Major Kevin McGinley.

That patrol car, which is also relatively new, was towed to an authorized Dodge dealership and is currently being inspected, McGinley said.

In September, a different agency-owned Charger was taken to the dealership after various indicator lights were illuminated, including one for the anti-lock brakes. Mechanics later determined a ground wire connected to the air bag had shorted, according to McGinley.

As a precaution, the sheriff's office returned that patrol car to the dealership Monday for a brake inspection even though the deputy who drives it did not report any new issues.

Mechanics test drove the vehicle and conducted a brake booster check, concluding that, "It is perfect and brakes work as designed," McGinley said.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades. Mike joined News 6 just as Florida officials began counting hanging chads in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Since then, he has covered some of the biggest news events in Central Florida.