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Man facing murder charge in death of tow-truck driver

Dave Herr, the tow-truck driver gunned down Tuesday in a Lauderdale Lakes apartment complex, was the kind of guy who walked away from conflict, said a friend and fellow wrecker driver.

And that’s apparently what he was doing when Triston Johnson, the owner of the gold 2001 S-Type Jaguar that Herr, 36, was hauling away confronted him.

Police say it was all caught on tape from several “dash cams’’ in Herr’s truck. They say Johnson shot an unarmed Herr in the head as he faced away from Johnson.

Broward Sheriff’s Office has the video, which is visually and audibly clear, according to department spokeswoman Dani Moschella. She said that investigators have watched it but state law prohibits them from releasing it because it shows a murder.

Investigators, however, are using the images and sound to piece together what led to the fatal encounter that put Johnson, 31, in the hospital after he began shooting at BSO deputies.

The probable cause affidavit says that cameras caught Johnson “shooting the [unarmed] victim in the head while he had his back to the defendant,’’ then firing at deputies.

“We know there are only a few seconds between the initial confrontation and the moment when Johnson began shooting,’’ Moschella said. “Herr did not appear to put up any fight or resist in any way.”

Johnson, whose wounds apparently aren’t life-threatening, is being held without bail at Broward Medical Center. He’s facing a capital murder charge in Herr’s death as well as a charge of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, BSO Deputy Michael Ryan, with whom he exchanged fire.

Ryan, who wasn’t hurt, is on administrative leave — standard in shooting cases.

Johnson’s criminal record includes a 2002 Broward felony arrest for pot possession. He served probation.

The scene unfolded before 3 p.m. Tuesday when Herr and several other drivers from All County Towing responded to a request from St. Croix Apartments, 4150 NW 34th St. to remove multiple cars for various infractions.

According to police, Herr was in the process of towing Johnson’s car when Johnson, who lives in the complex, shot him twice.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Johnson opened fire on them, too, BSO said.

Management at the apartment complex was closed Wednesday.

Herr’s friend Kevin Godfrey, who drives a repo truck for another company, said Herr wasn’t the type to look for trouble — or stick around if he found it.

“He was just an average person making a living and he got killed over $50,” Godfrey said, explaining that tow truck operators will drop a car if the owner can pay that amount at the scene.

Godfrey said that three All County trucks went to the complex on Tuesday at the request of apartment managers, and that generally, if there are multiple pickups, a driver will leave a tense scene and move on to the next vehicle.

Godfrey said that knowing Dave Herr, that’s exactly what he would have done.

Godfrey said that Herr was a decent man who loved cars, horses, his dog, and his two young kids. He said that Herr, who was divorced, and his children recently moved to Dania Beach with his girlfriend and her child.

Christine Owens, Herr’s former wife, was on the scene Tuesday and said she “begged’’ Herr to quit the towing business, fearing it was too dangerous.

Someone who answered the phone at All County on Wednesday said the company wouldn’t comment. Chris Casale, the company’s owner, could not be reached.

Johnson’s uncle, Dwight Pringle, told Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS4 that Johnson is mentally ill.

“I just heard from this father today that he’s schizophrenic,” Pringle told the station. “I think that’s probably what set him off.”

By Wednesday, little evidence of the shooting remained at St. Croix, just a few strands of crime-scene tape.

Melvin Warren and Jamanda Davis said that they were leaving the complex on Tuesday before the shooting when they saw a tow truck loading up a white sedan that was backed into a corner space.

They said the car’s owner asked the truck driver to drop the car, which he said he would, for $50.

The sedan owner “went up to get the money and the tow truck took off” with the sedan anyway, said Davis.

Davis said when they were walking away from the complex they saw another tow truck turn the corner into the underground spaces where Johnson’s Jaguar was parked.

“We left and the next thing we heard was sirens, and everyone saying someone got shot,” said Warren, who visits the complex frequently and added that he has never seen tow trucks there before.