One of those drivers who got caught up in the drama this morning was Rick Maestas. He spoke to WINK News this morning and had this to say about what he saw:
“There was a high-speed pursuit on the left shoulder when I got off the ramp…there was a man on top of another man …they were struggling for a little bit then I heard three shots…then the man who was sitting on top of the police officer fell to the side…the police officer got up, he was exhausted and laid back down, then help came.”
Other drivers, who witnessed pieces of the action as it unfolded this morning, wrote about it later online. One person said the suspect drove past them going at least 120mph… “he flew by a deputy who then chased him for at least 3 exits.”
It appears that the deputy was working an accident at Mile Marker 126 when the suspect “came upon him” and that’s when the pursuit began.
Another woman wrote: “I watched the suspect jump out of his car and run toward the officer and tackled him.”
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office told local news media that the deputy who was involved, 12-year veteran Deputy First Class Dean Bardes, is expected to be okay. The suspect who was fighting with the deputy was killed during the struggle and WINK is reporting that a passerby is the one who shot him.
“The passerby, who had a Concealed Weapons License, exited his vehicle and instructed the suspect to stop beating the deputy…after noncompliance from the suspect, the passerby shot the suspect three times,” sources said.
The exit to Corkscrew Road was completely blocked off and traffic was backed up for miles on southbound I-75 this morning. FHP officials say the ramp is expected to be closed until 9pm.