MANATEE -- The State Attorney's Office has cleared sheriff Deputy Aaron Bradley, who shot and killed a burglary suspect earlier this month, of any wrongdoing.
The decision was released Friday.
"I have the same comment I had the night the shooting took place," said Sheriff Brad Steube. "Our deputies acted within the guidelines of the Florida state statutes and our general orders."
Bradley and another deputy responded to a reported burglary in progress about 10:20 p.m. July 18 on 66th Avenue West in Bradenton.
As the suspects tried to leave the scene in a car, the driver, 26-year-old Joanna Mojica, accelerated toward the deputies.
Bradley, who has been with the sheriff's office since 2005, fired several shots at the vehicle and struck Mojica. She was taken to Blake Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.
Mojica's family has been trying to understand what led to her death. Her mother, Nora Mojica, questioned why the deputy shot at the driver and not the tires.
A woman who identified herself on the phone as Joanna Mojica's aunt gasped when told Bradley's actions were found justified. "What did she do?" she asked.
The state attorney's decision stated Mojica "intentionally" drove toward the deputies, putting them in "reasonable fear of death or serious physical harm."
The preliminary investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office also found that
Bradley's actions were in accordance with their general orders and state statutes.
Steube said Bradley is "doing good" and has been released back to full duty as a patrol deputy. He was put on administrative leave pending the investigation's results.
"To take a human life, I don't care who you are or what the circumstances are, it's traumatic," said Karl Holsberg, sheriff's chaplain. "I spent 22 years looking down the sight at suspects and pressed the trigger, but didn't have to pull it. It's what happens in the line of duty."
Holsberg said Bradley was contacted following the incident and offered support.
The victim, whose empty house was burglarized, said it feels as if she has to start over. She is planning to move out of the neighborhood.
The victim said a gaming console and games were stolen. Another television was detached from the wall and a laptop was lying outside of a broken window.
Jesse Flores, the other suspect, is being held at Manatee County jail without bond. He is charged with felony murder, two counts of attempted murder and burglary, and probation violation.
Flores and Mojica had dated for almost eight years and had two children.
"He's in shock, obviously," Holsberg said of Flores. "He didn't plan for this to happen. That was not his intent, but when you do the wrong things, anything is possible."
Holsberg also has met with Flores, who is being held in isolation and is on suicide watch. "You never know how someone is going to act," Holsberg said. "When people are desperate, they make bad decisions. We don't want any further crisis."
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.