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Shooting in road rage incident self-defense, police say

Jacoby Johnson and his girlfriend, Karen Romero, at the University of New Mexico Hospital after Johnson was shot several times during an altercation with another driver on Sept. 9. Police determined that the man who shot Johnson, permanently blinding him in one eye, was acting in self-defense. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Jacoby Johnson and his girlfriend, Karen Romero, at the University of New Mexico Hospital after Johnson was shot several times during an altercation with another driver on Sept. 9. Police determined that the man who shot Johnson, permanently blinding him in one eye, was acting in self-defense. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When a car swerved in front of Jacoby Johnson as he was driving with his family on Central Avenue the evening of Sept. 9, he said, he yelled at the driver and the driver yelled back.

In the altercation that followed, Johnson’s life changed forever.

The other driver, Anthony Perez, 22, shot Johnson, 34, six times in front of the Dollar General on Central near Juan Tabo, according to court documents.

Police said both men had left the area by the time officers arrived shortly after 7:30 p.m. Johnson had been taken to the hospital, and officers found Perez at his mother’s house the same night, according to a police report.

In an interview with the Journal, Johnson said he lost his left eye, was shot several times in the shoulder and chest and is worried he might lose a lung.

Police determined that Perez acted in self-defense before they had the opportunity to interview Johnson due to the extent of his injuries, said officer Tanner Tixier, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department. But they didn’t change their minds after interviewing Johnson three times while he was in the hospital.

Tixier said after talking with Perez, Johnson, Johnson’s girlfriend and another witness, police believe the shooting was consistent with a self-defense situation. However, the case will still be reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office.

“Even if we don’t recommend filing charges against Perez, we’ll still submit the file to the DA’s Office,” Tixier said. “The charging decision does not lie with us.”

Perez told police that he and Johnson had yelled at each other and exchanged obscene hand gestures from their cars. He said Johnson parked his car in a lane and approached him as he was stopped at the light.

“Jacoby quickly opened the door and was yelling at Anthony,” according to a search warrant affidavit filed in 2nd Judicial District Court. “Anthony had the gun in his hand, again scared for his life, pointing it at Jacoby.”

Then, he said, he shot Johnson six times. Johnson fell to the ground and Perez left the scene, according to the affidavit. There is no explanation in the warrant as to why Perez left.

Johnson remembers it differently. He said Perez got out of his car first, so he followed suit. He said he wasn’t carrying a gun and said he only grabbed for Perez’s gun after he had already been shot.

Johnson weighs more than 400 pounds and is 6 feet tall.

“I was trying to save my family from something dumb, and now they’re saying I did this just because I’m big?” Johnson said.

Johnson received a welding certificate from Central New Mexico Community College last May and said he won’t be able to use it now that he’s blind in one eye.

Johnson’s girlfriend, Karen Romero, and her 21-year-old son Efren were in the car throughout the fight and heard the gunshots.

Romero’s son is developmentally disabled, she said, and is now afraid of riding in a car and of loud noises.

Johnson was arrested when he was released from the hospital Saturday. Two days after he was admitted to the hospital, doctors reported to police that they found a heat-sealed bag containing a large amount of what later turned out to be cocaine hidden in his groin area.

He is charged with trafficking a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance and booked into the county jail under the name Stacy Johnson. He was released Sunday.

When reached by phone on Monday, Romero denied that Johnson sold drugs.

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