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WEST PARK, Fla. -- A Hallandale Beach man stole a hearse from outside a church while mourners inside said their goodbyes, then led police on a brief chase Wednesday, authorities said.
Johnny Silfrain, 18, was shot by a deputy during what authorities said was an attempt to stop the hearse in southern Broward County Click here for restaurant inspection reports.
"It's obviously a very strange situation," Sheriff Al Lamberti, a 30-year law enforcement veteran, said shortly after Silfrain's capture. "We've had hearses stolen before, but not in the middle of a service."
The incident unfolded about 11:30 a.m., at Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church, at 5212 Pembroke Road, Lamberti said. Silfrain had accompanied a relative who works for Hollywood's Eric S. George Funeral Home, Lamberti said.
After the coffin was moved from the hearse into the church, Silfrain allegedly got into the vehicle, where the key was left inside, and began driving to his home in Hallandale Beach, less than 3 miles away."He told relatives he had stolen the hearse, grabs a Bible and a cross, and asks [if anybody wants] to go for a ride," Lamberti said.
Meanwhile, a funeral director reported the vehicle stolen, and authorities issued a bulletin for the black hearse. A Hallandale Beach police officer noticed the vehicle in the 600 block of Foster Road. Sheriff's deputies picked up the trail as Silfrain headed west on Pembroke Road, and they cornered him in the 3800 block.
The deputies left their patrol cars and approached the hearse. Silfrain floored the accelerator and tried to run them over, Lamberti said.
That's when one deputy opened fire, striking Silfrain once in the right thigh, just above the knee, the sheriff said.
Despite being wounded, Silfrain continued driving back to Gethsemane, Lamberti said, then ran on foot into the church, disrupting the service. Deputies followed him into the sanctuary and arrested him.
Paramedics took him to Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital. He is expected to recover.
The alleged theft and shooting left neighbors in awe -- and incredulous.
"It was real crazy," witness Jasmin Thomas said. "They need to sentence him to the highest degree, because that's immoral."
Detectives would not say whether charges would be filed. The deputy who shot Silfrain has been placed on administrative leave, a standard procedure when a deputy fires a service weapon. The Sheriff's Internal Affairs unit is investigating.
Eric George, owner of the funeral home, said he borrowed a hearse from another business to take the coffin to the cemetery.
George disputed police reports that Silfrain is related to a funeral home employee. "We've never seen him before, we don't even know who he is," George said.
Earlier this year, records show, Silfrain was arrested on domestic battery and kidnapping charges that were later dropped.
Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.