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Florida deputy killed in crash was Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, Iraq

By LINDA TRISCHITTA AND SUSANNAH BRYAN | Sun Sentinel | Published: July 23, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — A young Broward Sheriff’s deputy who died after a crash Sunday had just a few shifts to go before he was to join his family in Indiana for the next phase of their lives.

But as Deputy Benjamin “Benji” Nimtz drove his patrol SUV with lights and sirens on toward a domestic dispute, those plans ended in a 3 a.m. collision with a Toyota Tundra pickup at Military Trail and Southwest 10th Street in Deerfield Beach.

Nimtz, 30, a former soldier from West Palm Beach, was declared dead at Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach.

Darran Johnson, 32, of Pembroke Pines, was driving the pickup. He was hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Though Johnson was not cited in the collision that sheriff’s traffic homicide investigators are still studying, detectives said Johnson was going too fast and that excessive speed was a contributing factor in the crash, spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said Monday.

The detectives based their preliminary conclusion about how fast Johnson was traveling by examining the two wrecks, she said. Johnson’s toxicology test results are pending, she said.

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Amid the open investigation, the Broward Sheriff’s Office hasn’t released additional information, including which driver may have had a red light. The investigation is expected to take several weeks.

Nimtz served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to his Facebook page. A photograph released by the U.S. Air Force described how he also competed as a wrestler in Mosul, Iraq, on behalf of his branch of the service.

He was hired by the Sheriff’s Office on March 19, 2018. But he and his family were not going to stay in South Florida.

Some of Nimtz’s relatives live in Indiana, and his wife, Emelie, had already moved there with their young daughter and son, Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies’ Association, said Monday.

In August, Nimtz was scheduled to have a final interview with the Fishers Police Department, a growing city of about 90,000 people that is northeast of Indianapolis.

Like the Broward Sheriff’s Office, that agency also is mourning the loss of Nimtz’s life that seemed full of potential.

“We are saddened because we anticipated adding him to our family here,” Fishers Police Department Sgt. Tom Weger said Monday. “We believe he would have been a great addition to our police department and to our city.”

Weger said Nimtz was on their short list for hires and “appeared to be a highly qualified applicant."

By Monday morning, a memorial — which included a heart-shaped wreath of red Gerbera daisies and other bouquets — was growing on the southeast corner of Military Trail and Southwest 10th Street.

Nimtz was a Wisconsin native who graduated from Waukesha South High School in 2007, according to posts on Facebook and other online information. That same year, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a sergeant and team leader at Fort Carson in Colorado.

After his military service, Nimtz was studying at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs when he met his wife, who is from West Palm Beach.

Officials said Nimtz’s widow arrived in South Florida on Monday afternoon. Plans for his funeral, and whether it would happen in Broward County or elsewhere, were not yet finalized.

The Sheriff’s Office asks anyone who was in the area at the time and has information about accident to call Detective Carlos De Jesus at 954-321-4842.

Staff writer Johnny Diaz contributed to this report.

©2019 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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