Sheriff: Gunman shot Florida Highway Patrol trooper at point-blank range

Will Greenlee and Sara Marino, Treasure Coast
Sheriff: Gunman shot Florida Highway Patrol trooper at point-blank range

STUART, Fla. – A dispute over money owed to a tow truck driver appears to have preceded the fatal shooting of a Florida Highway Patrol trooper earlier this month on Interstate 95, authorities said Friday.

According to Martin County Sheriff William Snyder, Franklin Reed III, 30, of Palm Bay shot Trooper Joseph Bullock, 42, in the head at point-blank range as Bullock sat in his patrol car on the interstate near Palm City.

Reed then fired at least two rounds at an off-duty Riviera Beach police detective, who had stopped at the scene while on his way to work. The detective returned fire, wounding Reed in the chest. Reed then shot himself in the head.

“That (chest) wound would have ultimately proven fatal, but the round that ended Reed’s life was in fact self-inflicted,” Snyder said.

Sheriff’s officials showed a 20-minute reconstruction of the events surrounding the Feb. 5 shooting of Bullock, a 19-year veteran, using 911 recordings and dash camera and helicopter footage.

Bullock stopped to help Reed about 9:09 a.m., but it appeared Reed didn’t need help, so Bullock drove away.

“Some of our investigation leaves us with the impression that he had perhaps run out of gas,” Snyder said.

Reed’s vehicle ended up in the center of the grassy median.

About an hour later, a motorist saw the vehicle there and, thinking there had been an accident, called 911.

“Trooper Bullock says, no, it’s not a wreck. I know what that is, and he goes back where he finds the vehicle down in the gulley, and now requests a tow truck,” Snyder said. “He can’t leave it down in there.”

Bullock called for the tow truck and remained on the scene in his patrol car while the tow truck driver helped Reed.

Deadly attack: Florida trooper fatally shot while assisting motorist on I-95

Snyder said the driver indicated Reed had no money to pay the tow, but “because they’ve already put a hook on it and pulled it up it was money owed, so there’s a dispute there.”

Reed wanted his vehicle back, but the tow company wouldn’t release it until payment was rendered.

“At some point Reed walks away from his truck, the tow truck driver sees him do that ... and thinks that he’s walking over to the trooper to say I’ve got it worked out or whatever,” Snyder said.

The tow truck driver followed and was standing there when the shooting occurred.

Bullock was sitting in his car working on the paperwork, Snyder said.

“There's no indication that Trooper Bullock saw what was coming or could in any way have prevented it,” Snyder said.

According to records released by the Sheriff’s Office, another witness told deputies the tow truck driver ran and Reed was aiming the gun at him and would have shot him in the back, but the gun jammed.

Riviera Beach police Detective Jemel Headings, who was driving by at the time, noticed something suspicious near Bullock’s patrol vehicle and turned around in the median and drove back.

He got out and “engaged the subject,” Snyder said.

“Detective Headings' justifiable actions undoubtedly prevented further violence and an armed confrontation between responding Martin County deputies and Reed,” Snyder said.

According to Sheriff’s Office records, one day before the deadly encounter, Reed was accused of stealing a $1,000 gold pendant with studded diamonds in the shape of Jesus. Records show a bullet went through the pendant when Headings shot Reed.

Snyder said he doesn’t believe the theft is related to the shooting.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Sara Marino on Twitter: @saradmarino. Follow Will Greenlee on Twitter: @OffTheBeatTweet

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast: Florida Trooper Joseph Bullock was shot as he sat in patrol car