Broward County

A cop’s body camera captures how a call to Century Village ended in chaos

Pembroke police officer clings onto fleeing car

Body cam footage shows a Pembroke Pines police officer clinging to a car after police were called to Century Village regarding an overdose.
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Body cam footage shows a Pembroke Pines police officer clinging to a car after police were called to Century Village regarding an overdose.

A black car speeding out of a retirement community with a police officer desperately hanging onto the driver’s side like stubborn Christmas tree twine.

That was Pembroke Pines officer Jon Cusack’s Tuesday morning moments after checking on an unconscious couple in a car parked at Century Village. Cusack’s body camera, which police say flew off when driver Thomas Cabrera “made several sharp maneuvers,” caught the start of an episode that ended with a car chase down two highways during Tuesday morning’s rush hour.

It ended around 9:10 a.m. with the arrest of 38-year-old Pines resident Thomas Cabrera near Interstate 595’s intersections with U.S. 441 and Florida’s Turnpike.

Cabrera was charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, felony fleeing and eluding, reckless driving, and driving while his license was suspended.

Cusack, a 19-year veteran, was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood with serious, but not life-threatening injuries. Pembroke Pines police said Wednesday afternoon that he was in good spirits after surgery and would be released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon.

Officer Jon Cusack
Pembroke Pines officer Jon Cusack Pembroke Pines Police Department

Cusack went to Century Village, police said, after a resident saw an unconscious couple in a car on the property. Cabrera and a woman were passed out, with a “small, clear plastic baggie with an unknown substance in plain view,” according to police.

Body camera video shows Cusack putting on protective gloves as he tries to talk to Cabrera. Suddenly, Cabrera awakens, starts the car and starts to leave.

Cusack tried to stop Cabrera from fleeing by reaching into the car, but instead got caught in the door frame. Cusack can be heard yelling at Cabrera to stop as he hangs on to the side of the car for what police estimated was a half-mile.

On his way to Century Village’s Pembroke Road and 129th Avenue exit, Cabrera allegedly tried to ram into Pembroke Pines Fire Rescue trucks that were responding to the original overdose call. The trucks dodged Cabrera. Police say Cabrera also tried to pry the officer’s fingers off the door with one hand as he steered the car with the other.

Other video shows Cusack letting go near a Pembroke Road exit of Century Village, bouncing and rolling across the grass and road.

“Officer Cusack’s uniform and shoes were shredded from being dragged along the roadway,” a detective wrote in Cabrera’s police report.

Meanwhile, Cabrera headed for Interstate 75’s northbound lanes.

“It should be noted that the defendant drove in a wanton and careless disregard for the public safety endangering the lives of motorists while fleeing from officers in heavy rush hour traffic and reached speeds of approximately 105 mph, while driving in the break down lane at several points,” a detective wrote in his report.

After Cabrera was slowed down by the traffic, he got trapped by police cars and the guardrail. News helicopter footage showed him surrendering. Police say they found several syringes and small plastic bags in the car.

Thomas Cabrer_fitted
Thomas Cabrera Broward Sheriff’s Office

According to the police report, after being read his rights, Cabrera told a detective he left because he didn’t want to go to jail. He said that he and his fiancée were doing heroin and cocaine in the car before the officer woke him up, according to the report.

“The Defendant displayed a clear intent by his actions to take the life of [Officer] Cusack who was in full uniform, operating a marked police unit, while attempting to flee from officers,” the detective wrote.

Cabrera did eight months in prison for grand theft in 2014. A check of Broward County court records indicates that his only brush with the law in Broward since then was a traffic ticket for failure to obey a traffic control device.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal