While pinned to the ground, a Florida deputy begged a passerby to shoot his attacker. The man complied, shooting the suspect dead. He’s since learned his fate.
At about 9:30 am on November 14, 2016, a chain of events led to Sheriff’s Deputy Dean Bardes begging for his life just a few feet away from Ashad Russell, a passerby who also happened to be a concealed-carry permit holder. While pinned to the ground by Edward Strother, Deputy Bardes instructed Russell to shoot his attacker. He did, taking one life to save another.
Just moments prior, Sheriff’s Deputy Dean Bardes and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper were at the scene of a car crash when a Toyota Camry swerved and drove along the left shoulder at what seemed to be speeds of at least 100 miles per hour, nearly striking the officers, according to an eyewitness. With the near-crash appearing intentional, Bardes began chasing the Camry southbound on I-75 in a high-speed chase through Lee County, Florida.
The high-speed pursuit screeched to a halt when the driver stopped and got out of his car at an off-ramp. Deputy Bardes rushed to subdue the driver, but the man, who would later be identified as Edward Strother, got to him first. After getting the jump on the 12-year veteran officer, Strother hit Bardes in the face.
The stunned officer crumpled to the ground, where Strother then straddled the dazed lawman and pinned him to the asphalt. Then, the attacker “just started punching [the deputy] and hitting and hitting and hitting,” said Kimberly Jenkinson, a Florida woman driving by at the time. “I was afraid for the police officer. I thought he was going to kill him,” she added, and it would seem she had every reason to fear for Deputy Bardes’ life.
With cars whizzing by, “Strother repeatedly delivered punches to Bardes’ head and torso,” according to a review by the Lee County state attorney’s office, which added that Strother “attempted to gain control of Bardes’ firearm.” Thankfully, passerby Ashad Russell was just a few feet away and also watching the horrific scene unfold, but unlike other witnesses, he was a concealed-carry permit holder who had a gun.
Russell pulled his gun and approached the man attacking the officer, warning him that he would shoot “if he didn’t stop beating the deputy.” Sadly, Strother seemed undeterred and ignored Russell’s commands, forcing the deputy to plead for help. With Deputy Bares begging Russell to shoot his attacker, the passerby fired his gun three times, hitting Strother in the clavicle and the neck. A short time later, Strother was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead from cardiac arrest.
A short time after the shooting, Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott hailed Russell a hero as the nation faced what he called “an increasingly alarming rise in attacks and killings perpetrated on cops.” As expected, Edward Strother’s family was not happy to hear of their loved one’s demise or the fact that his “killer” was being called a “good Samaritan.” Questioning the details of the fight, Strother’s brother criticized the response to the shooting. “They are calling him a good Samaritan,” Louis Strother told the press. “Was my brother armed?” he asked.
As previously mentioned, the shooting was reviewed by the Lee County state attorney’s office, which concluded that Russell used “defensive force” because he had “a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm” to the deputy. The shooting was ruled “legally justified,” since Russell had the legal right to stand his ground under Florida law, making Russell immune from criminal prosecution in the case. Instead of facing charges, the man was rightfully hailed a hero by authorities who thanked him for saving the deputy’s life.
While the number of officers killed in the line of duty had seen a steady decline since the early 1970s, 2016 saw the highest number of officers killed in the line of duty in five years. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 135 officers were killed with 64 fatally shot in the line of duty — a 56% spike over the year before. It was an ugly year and an ugly time for officers, and not something we should soon forget — nor should we ever fail to remember heroes like Ashad Russell, who didn’t see color or badges that day, but rather an attacker and a victim, prompting him to act accordingly.
“I thank the hero that recognized the imminent threat, rushed to Deputy Bardes’ aid, and ultimately stopped that threat,” Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott wrote on the department’s Facebook page. “In a day and age where race is a near instant focus for media and other pundits in police incidents, the fact is that this hero happens to be a man of color who stopped another man of color from further harming or killing a white cop; thereby reminding us that black lives matter, blue lives matter, and indeed all life matters.”