Authorities are thanking a passerby who shot and killed a motorist fighting a deputy along a Florida interstate on Nov. 14. (Reuters)
When the man saw a patrol car parked on the exit ramp of a Florida interstate, he witnessed a scene too troubling to ignore: a sheriff deputy being slammed to the ground and beaten by a man in plain clothes.
The passerby, whom the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is now calling a “Good Samaritan,” rushed to the two men, telling the attacker he would shoot him if he refused to stop beating the deputy.
The attacker, later identified as 53-year-old Edward Strother, continued to pin down the deputy and attack him, and the deputy struggled to keep his weapon away from him. When the attacker failed to comply to his warning, the passerby shot him three times, killing him, the News-Press reported.
The deputy, a 12-year veteran named Dean Bardes, was treated for his injuries and later released from the hospital.
Mike Scott, the Lee County sheriff, commended and thanked the man “who engaged the crazed assailant and stopped the imminent threat of great bodily harm or death to our deputy,” NBC-2 reported. He did not identify the man, however.
But the attacker’s brother later criticized the sheriff’s positive response to his brother’s death and questioned the details of the fight.
“They are calling him a Good Samaritan?” Strother’s brother, Louis Strother, said to the News-Press. “Was my brother armed?”
The scene had begun to unravel at about 9:30 a.m. Monday, when a driver began to recklessly swerve and drive along the left shoulder at what seemed to be at least 100 miles per hour, a witness told the News-Press. Bardes was responding to an unrelated crash involving the Florida Highway Patrol when Strother almost struck him with his car.
Sensing the near-crash was intentional, Bardes chased the vehicle southbound, until the driver stopped and exited his car at an off-ramp, approaching Bardes’s patrol car. The fight that ensued was one in a string of “egregious acts of aggression toward law enforcement officers across this country,” Scott, the sheriff, said.
[Calif. deputy sheriff fatally shot in point blank ‘execution.’ Suspect in custody after manhunt.]
Kimberly Jenkinson, a Florida woman driving by at the time, told WINK News she saw the man violently throw the officer to the ground.
“He just started punching him and hitting and hitting and hitting,” she said. “I was afraid for the police officer. I thought he was going to kill him.”
Later, she posted a status on Facebook that read, “I just watched a police officer get taken down. What is this world coming to?”
An emergency crew performed CPR on Strother at the scene in an attempt to revive him. Strother has a previous, active misdemeanor arrest warrant for failure to appear on a battery charge in Florida, according to NBC-2.
The “Good Samaritan” had a concealed-weapons permit that allowed him to carry his gun, NBC-2 reported.
Bardes, 47, of New Jersey, served in the U.S. Air Force for three months, before being discharged for knee pain, the News-Press reported. He worked as a corrections officer for two years before becoming a patrol officer.
The deputy’s file included notes from supervisors who wrote early on in his career that he acted cautiously and was always respectful of the public, the News-Press reported.
Bardes, “is able to deescalate situations and resolve these incidents in a fair and partial manner,” the personnel file states.