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'I just wanted to get close to him'; Brooklyn driver who mowed down bicycling burglar blames crash on car malfunction

2019-09-05

Murder Suspect Korey Johnson is taken from the 83rd Precinct in Brooklyn on September 3, 2019. (Theodore Parisienne/for New York Daily News)

An auto mechanic accused of fatally running over a bicycling burglar with his SUV in Brooklyn said Wednesday that he lost control of the vehicle — and suggested that it could have been damaged during the break in that sent him into a rage.

Korey Johnson, 41, who was charged with murder and manslaughter after the gruesome Sunday crash that killed petty thief Donald Roberts, 47, said the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s brakes and steering were not working when he barreled down Broadway and wiped out Roberts.

Johnson even blamed the victim, whom he said had broken into his vehicle. Johnson said a cup that had been in a cup holder may have gotten lodged beneath the brake pedal after Roberts was rummaging around in the car.

He also said Roberts was trying to steal parts he could sell, and might have done something to mess up the steering.

"All I wanted to do was catch him, tackle him, not let him get away,." Johnson said during an interview at the Brooklyn House of Detention, where he is being held without bail. “I just wanted to get close to him.”

Instead, in a crash caught on camera, Johnson’s Jeep pinned Roberts and his bike against a row of parked cars before the vehicle hit a semi truck and flipped on its side.

Johnson, who was in the car with a friend, Renee Puckett, said he got out and freed her from the wreckage, He said he saw Roberts a few yards away, twitching and saying “ow.”

"I thought he was alive,” Johnson said.. “I didn't think he was going to die."

Johnson said he tapped Roberts' shoulder with his shoe while Roberts was lying facedown on the ground with his arms under him.

“Got you. You’re not going nowhere. The police are coming,” he said he told Roberts.

Medics rushed Roberts to a nearby hospital, but he could not be saved.

When police arrived, Johnson said he heard "DOA" over a radio. He asked whether it was Roberts, but no one would tell him. It was not until he was at the precinct that he heard that Roberts was dead.

Johnson, who also has a long history of arrests, said he had not been drinking.

Johnson said it was close to 5:30 a.m. Sunday when he and Puckett first encountered Roberts outside Woodhull hospital. He said he spotted the career criminal rummaging around in his car, and that two windows had been broken.

When he confronted Roberts, the thief lunged at him with one of the mechanic’s screwdrivers, scratching him before slashing Puckett and speeding off on his bike along Marcus Garvey Blvd, said Johnson.

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Johnson said he and Puckett jumped in Jeep and followed, with both he and Roberts ending up in the oncoming traffic lane on Broadway.But when he hit the gas, Johnson said, something went wrong — the Jeep started pulling to the left, and he couldn’t stop.

“I feel terrible,” Johnson said. “Somebody died. It was not my intention to hurt anyone.”