The Martin County Sheriff's Office used dashcam and helicopter video and 911 recordings to create a timeline of events surrounding FHP trooper's death.
MARTIN COUNTY — A dispute over money owed to tow a vehicle on Interstate 95 appears to have preceded the fatal shooting of Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joseph Bullock, with his accused killer being shot by a detective.
In the first detailed accounting of the Feb. 5 encounter on I-95 south of State Road 714, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder on Friday said Franklin Reed III, 30, shot Bullock, 42, at point blank range in the head as Bullock was in his patrol car.
Reed then fired at least two rounds at off-duty Riviera Beach Detective Jemel Headings, who had stopped while on his way to work. Headings returned fire, striking Reed, of Palm Bay, in the chest. Reed then shot himself in the head.
“That wound would have ultimately proven fatal, but the round that ended Reed’s life was in fact self-inflicted,” Snyder said. “Detective Headings' justifiable actions undoubtedly prevented further violence and an armed confrontation between responding Martin County deputies and Reed.”
Sheriff’s officials Friday showed a 20-minute reconstruction of the events surrounding the shooting of Bullock, a 19-year veteran, using 911 recordings, dashcam and helicopter footage. The video helped clarify what Snyder described as “an enormously confusing scene.”
Bullock stopped to help Reed about 9:09 a.m., but it appeared he didn’t need help.
“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.
A motorist saw the vehicle there, and it appeared to the motorist there was an accident. The motorist called it in to 911 dispatchers.
“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.”
Between 10:12 a.m. and 11:18 a.m. Bullock called for a tow truck. He remained on the scene while the driver helped Reed.
Snyder said the tow truck driver indicated Reed had no money to pay the fee, 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 follows along, and was standing there when the shooting occurred.
“There's no indication that Trooper Bullock saw what was coming or could in any way have prevented it,” Snyder said.
Bullock was sitting in his car working through the paperwork, he said.
A witness who was at the scene when it happened told deputies the tow truck driver was running for his life and that Reed was aiming at him and would have shot him in the back, according to records released from the Sheriff’s Office Friday. But the gun jammed.
Reed bought the Glock 23 .40-caliber handgun he was using in 2017 from a pawn shop in Palm Bay, the records showed.
Headings, who was driving south, had turned around in the median and drove north after noticing something suspicious near Bullock’s patrol vehicle.
He got out and “engaged the subject,” Snyder said.
According to records from the Sheriff’s Office, 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.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating Headings' shooting of Reed. The agency did not have representatives at Snyder's news conference.
Jessica Cary, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said the agency wasn't attending because its investigation is still active.
A tow truck official from Tri County Automotive & Towing talks to 911 dispatcher after Feb. 5 fatal shooting of FHP trooper Joseph Bullock. Wochit
A witness called 911 after seeing FHP Trooper Joseph Bullock shot. Wochit
A tow truck official from Tri County Automotive & Towing talks to 911 dispatcher after Jan. 5 fatal shooting of FHP trooper Joseph Bullock. Wochit
“Our destiny as law enforcement is to go out there and help people,” Snyder said.— Sara Marino (@saradmarino) February 21, 2020
Sara Marino is a TCPalm breaking news reporter covering Martin County. You can reach Sara on Twitter @saradmarino or email her at Sara.Marino@tcpalm.com. If you're a subscriber, thank you. If not, become a subscriber to get the latest breaking news.
Will Greenlee is a breaking news reporter for TCPalm. He also covers strange, wild and weird Treasure Coast crimes in “Off The Beat.” Follow Will on Twitter @OffTheBeatTweet or reach him by phone at 772-692-8936. E-mail him at email@example.com
This story originally published to tcpalm.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.