Florida Trooper Who Stopped to Help Man with Broken Down Car Killed by Motorist

An off-duty police officer who happened to be driving by shot the suspect

Joseph Bullock
Photo: Florida highway patrol

A Florida Highway Patrol trooper was killed this week after stopping to help the driver of a disabled vehicle, who shot him.

Around 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, trooper Joseph Bullock stopped to help a car on the side of the Interstate 95 in Martin County when the car’s driver fatally shot him, FHP director Col. Gene Spalding told CNN.

An off-duty Riviera Beach police officer happened to be driving by the scene and shot the suspect, who was later identified as Franklin Reed III, CNN reported. Reed also died.

DaWayne Watson, who is the public informations officer for the Riviera Beach Fire Rescue, also happened to be driving home in the opposite direction when he spotted the chaotic scene, the local West Palm Beach NBC station WPTV reported.

Watson turned his car around to see what he could do to help — but Bullock was sadly already dead.

“When I drove by, I just saw the trooper and he was on the ground,” Watson told WPTV. “I saw people in a chaotic state of mind. Everybody was on their cellphones. A lady was holding her head like, ‘Oh my god. I can’t believe this,’ … I knew there was more to that call than the average broken down car.”

Watson said that as he was assessing the situation, he heard more gunshots before he could help Bullock, who was “down and not moving.”

“I just kind of grabbed the hands of a couple of people and I tried to usher them to safety,” he said.

“My first instinct was to try to drag the trooper behind his vehicle just in case gunfire erupted again,” he continued, adding that he “knew right then his injuries were fatal. I just had to come to grips with there was nothing else I could do.”

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Joseph Bullock
Scene of the shooting. YouTube

“Today, the entire Florida Highway Patrol and FLHSMV family is heartbroken as we mourn the tragic loss of Trooper Joseph Bullock, a nearly 19-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol who chose to make selflessly serving and protecting others his life’s work,” Spaulding and FLHSMV executive director Terry L. Rhodes said in a statement on Wednesday shared on Twitter. “Please keep his family and his team members in your prayers.”

Spaulding told CNN that Bullock was “a great guy.”

“Joe was one of those troopers that went out every day, did his job quietly, professionally and with the utmost dedication, and it is a tragic, tragic loss,” he said. “It will take a long time for the Florida Highway Patrol to heal.”

The investigation is still ongoing, the FHP said in a press release. The FHP did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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