Lawyers seek mental exam for man jailed in attack on Hillsborough deputies

Attorneys for the man accused of intentionally hitting two Hillsborough deputies with his car say they don’t think he’s mentally competent to take part in his defense.

Ralph Bouzy, 28, was scheduled to appear for a pretrial detention hearing in Tampa on Wednesday afternoon so a judge could consider a motion by the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office to keep him in jail without bond. But the office of Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt filed a written request Tuesday to postpone the hearing so they can determine if Bouzy is mentally competent to proceed.

Holt’s office ”has a good faith belief” that Bouzy is not mentally competent “and will not be able to participate in his defense at the pretrial detention hearing or at any hearing in his current mental state,” the request states.

The document, signed by two assistant public defenders, says Bouzy’s attorneys, who met with him Tuesday in the Falkenburg Road Jail, believe his mental health issues prevent him from understanding the charges against him and the penalties that could be imposed, among other aspects of the criminal justice process.

The motion states that Bouzy has been diagnosed with “schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the disorder is “a chronic mental health condition characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania and depression.”

Circuit Judge Catherine Catlin on Wednesday signed an order appointing a psychiatrist to evaluate Bouzy to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Also Tuesday, prosecutors formally filed three counts of first degree attempted murder of a law enforcement officer with a weapon against Bouzy.

Bouzy was arrested on those charges last Thursday, minutes after he struck sheriff’s Cpl. Carlos Brito and Deputy Manuel “Manny” Santos with his Nissan Altima, seriously injuring both men. Authorities said he intentionally targeted the deputies after they responded to a 911 call from Bouzy’s mother.

Bouzy also faces a misdemeanor battery charge as well as two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer. The last two charges stem from allegations that he struck two jail deputies after his arrest.

Holt’s motion includes new details about the efforts Bouzy’s family made to get him mental health treatment before the events that led to his arrest.

On Nov. 6 and 7, his mother Violette Joseph filed two separate petitions to have her son taken into protective custody under Florida’s Baker Act “due to his behavior, secondary to his mental illness,” the document states. Both petitions were denied by the court, according to the document, but it does not identify the judge that made the decision.

Joseph also called a local mental health provider’s mobile crisis team, which responded to the home on Nov. 6 “without initiating services,” the document states.

“At the time of Ms. Joseph’s calls and attempts to get help for her son, the Defendant had been out of his prescription psychotropic medication,” the attorneys wrote.

“Because the Defendant has an extensive psychiatric history including the use of psychotropic medication, this court should appoint a psychiatrist to evaluate the Defendant and not solely a psychologist.”

The document states that Bouzy has a long history of mental illness and has been the subject of at least 15 Baker Act proceedings. Court records show that Hillsborough prosecutors dropped prior criminal charges against Bouzy dating back to 2015 after he successfully completed mental health diversion programs.

A newly released arrest affidavit for his misdemeanor battery charge provides more details about the events that prompted his mother to call 911 Thursday morning.

According to the affidavit, Bouzy got into a fight with someone at about 7:44 a.m. at his family’s home on Dexwell Court, in Brandon’s Heather Lakes subdivision.

That person’s name, relationship and other information is redacted from the affidavit. The person took refuge in a bedroom. Bouzy broke down the bedroom door, according to the affidavit.

The person in the room had placed a dresser against the door to try to keep him out, but he pushed the dresser, causing small abrasions to the person’s thigh and shin.

Bouzy left the room. A short time later, he charged and grabbed the person’s neck, causing small abrasions. Deputies were told that Bouzy had previously threatened to break the person’s neck, according to the affidavit.

According to information previously released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Bouzy’s mother called 911 and said her son was acting violent and irrational at their home. Fearing for her safety, she asked that deputies be sent.

When Santos and Brito arrived outside the home, they found Bouzy in the driver’s seat of a parked Nissan Altima. Sheriff Chad Chronister said the deputies tried to deescalate the situation, but Bouzy ignored them and drove away. Bouzy returned and nearly hit two additional deputies who arrived at the scene, then sped up and aimed his car at Santos and Brito, who stood next to a sheriff’s SUV, according to the sheriff’s office.

Brito was pinned between the Nissan and sheriff’s SUV, and Santos suffered severe leg injuries. Both deputies were rushed to Tampa General Hospital.

Santos was discharged from the hospital on Saturday, drawing applause and hugs from fellow deputies and other well-wishers as his wife Chelsea stood by his wheelchair.

Brito, a married father of three young daughters, remained hospitalized this week. Chronister has said that at least part of Brito’s leg may need to be amputated and that doctors have been working to save the limb.

In social media posts on Monday after visiting with Brito, Chronister said the corporal “is very optimistic about his recovery.”

Early Saturday morning, while deputies were trying to place Bouzy into wrist restraints in the infirmary at the Falkenburg Road jail, Bouzy struck one deputy on the neck and another deputy in the face, according to an arrest affidavit.

One of the deputies asked Bouzy if he knew what he’d just done. “Yes,” Bouzy replied. " I just punched you.”

Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report.