In his first interview since resigning from office, former Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown said he has no regrets about the New Year’s Eve fight at the Midlothian Whataburger, which cost him his career.
"I have no shame in anything I did that night with the exception of the cussing. That was uncalled for," Brown, 58, told WFAA.
He had just wrapped up his annual New Year’s Eve benefit and agreed to stop at Whataburger in Midlothian with his family when the incident happened.
"As I walked in I saw Bobby get hit and laid out. The guy blindsided him and knocked him straight flat out on the ground," said the former sheriff. “He's 59 years old. He's had a broken back. He's suffered through leukemia, and I didn't know what was going on."
Bobby Brown is the sheriff's brother.
In surveillance video from the restaurant, Bobby Brown punches one of four younger men in line for food. It was the continuation of an argument that began outside in the parking lot.
After Bobby Brown delivers a punch, one of the victim’s friends, Matthew Longoria, pushes the 59-year-old man down on the ground.
That's when the sheriff walks in, according to the video.
"The minute they found out Johnny Brown was in it. It did not matter that Bobby Brown had punched anybody," said Johnny Brown.
Video shows the sheriff defending his brother and taking swings at Longoria while pushing the 22-year-old backwards.
"Both swings I missed. He had thrown his hands up and I grabbed him in an arm bar and back him away from my brother," said the sheriff.
In his first sworn statement to police just after the fight, Longoria said the same thing.
"I was never struck," wrote Longoria.
But eight days later, the 22-year-old changed his story.
In a new sworn affidavit on January 9, Longoria wrote: “Upon meeting with Detective Tim Scott we discussed my recollection of the night. Having had time to reflect about the situation and feeling the pain the following morning, I remember things differently. When [the] sheriff began throwing punches, I was struck at least once in the face."
Contacted by WFAA on Tuesday, Longoria said two detectives drove to Killeen to show him the restaurant surveillance video.
“They showed me a freeze frame of it. They paused it right as he was connecting it,” said Longoria to WFAA. “I was like ok, I guess I was wrong.”
Longoria said he decided to press charges against the Brown brothers after meeting with the detectives.
"I don't have a doubt they were out to get me,” explained the former sheriff. “I'm not saying Midlothian Police Department. There's elected officials in that county that couldn't stand me and anything they could get to get me gone. That's what they wanted."
Both men acted in defense of another. State law allows someone to come to the defense of a third person just as Longoria and Brown did that night.
Longoria was not charged for throwing down Bobby Brown, but the sheriff was charged with Class A misdemeanor assault for swinging at the 22-year-old.
In the 911 call to report the fight, the manager at Whataburger said alcohol was a factor in the fight. Plus, in his own sworn statement, Garrett Gaskamp told police that he was the “sober driver” for Longoria and the other two young men.
Still, Midlothian Police never conducted field sobriety tests on anyone involved.
There was no odor of alcohol detected by the officers, said Capt. John Spann, Midlothian Police.
The former sheriff said he was never interviewed during the investigation. But Spann said detectives reached out by Brown’s attorneys declined.
The political pressure weighed so heavily on the sheriff before he resigned, that Brown said he considered suicide in February.
“This wasn't just about the Whataburger fight. They dug and dug and dug to the point, where they were going to get me no matter what. They were going to put the pressure on me, and had I stayed in the fight at that point, I probably would have committed suicide," said the former sheriff.
The former sheriff stepped down from elected office and gave up his law enforcement license. His brother pleaded guilty and is on probation after a couple days in jail.
Johnny Brown said he does not want his old job back. He agreed to speak so he could set the record straight about the political feud behind that Whataburger fight.
“I'm not going to hang my head in shame. I'm not going to leave Ellis County like some people want me to do with my head down and cowering. It's not going to happen. The truth needs to be told. There were errors on both sides of this on my family’s side and those boys’ side. There is some lying. Lots of it," said Brown.
The criminal case is now closed, and the former sheriff has since started a new business.