ELLIS COUNTY (CBS11 I-TEAM) – There was reason to celebrate.
It was, after all, New Year’s Day.
And Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown had just been sworn in for a third term as the county’s top cop, with his brother Bobby by his side.
Caleb Tomgenovich, 21, a student at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, was in a different part of town, ringing in the New Year with friends from his high school days.
“We were all at my buddy’s place, just hanging out, shooting off some fireworks,” Tomgenovich told the I-Team.
Then, in the wee hours of Jan. 1, Tomgenovich and his friends, and the sheriff, his brother and their friends, all got hungry and headed for the Whataburger on the outskirts of Midlothian.
Surveillance video obtained by the I-Team shows Tomgenovich at the restaurant counter when Bobby Brown enters. The two appear to exchange words, then Brown slugs him in the face, the video shows.
It also shows the sheriff, 57, entering seconds later, charging Tomgenovich’s friend, 21-year-old Matthew Longoria, where the two get into a scuffle.
“It wasn’t even a question. It was like, ‘Wow, we just got attacked by the sheriff’… I mean, my mind was blown,” he said.
Tomgenovich said it all began with an exchange of dirty looks in the Whataburger parking lot, after he said one of the sheriff’s friends pulled up too close to him.
“I thought that was the end of it. But they came and confronted me in the restaurant,” he added.
Johnny Brown, who has since stepped down as sheriff, told the I-Team in a telephone interview that he was only attempting to stop a fight that night, never realizing his brother threw the first punch.
The I-Team also exclusively obtained police dash-cam video that shows another confrontation between the sheriff and investigating Officer Aaron Walters, with the Midlothian Police Department, who accused Brown of attempting to intimidate a witness to the earlier fight.
“Get out of the store (meaning restaurant) right now!” Walters shouts to the sheriff, as he points to the exit. “You don’t stand over her like that, and try to intimidate her!” the officer yells.
Later, the dash-cam video shows Brown, holding a bag of food and a drink, walk back up to Walters at his patrol car.
“If you worked for me, you’d be fired,” the sheriff is overheard telling the police officer.
Walters shouts back, “I don’t care who you are!.. Stop trying to intimidate me!”
Then the sheriff tells the officer, “You’re an arrogant little (bleep) is what you are!” Then adds: “And I hope that camera’s on!”
“Oh it is! It is!” Officer Walters replied.
In his telephone interview with the I-Team, the former sheriff apologized for what he called “inappropriate language” towards the officer.
He declined to go on camera.
The “first thing I did was call my momma,” Tomgenovich said, recalling what he did after the Whataburger scuffle.
“She thought I was lying… She thought me and my friends were being idiots and we started the whole thing,” he said.
Then she saw the video.
So did authorities, who charged the sheriff and his brother with misdemeanor assault – a charge they would both later plead guilty to.
In a deal with a special prosecutor, Brown also stepped down as sheriff and gave up his state peace officer’s license, ending his career in law enforcement.
“We know they aren’t bad people. We just don’t think they made a very good choice that night,” said Tomgenovich, who is studying to become a coach.
He added: “The fact that they both pleaded guilty, and the sheriff stepped down, is good enough for me.”
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