Story by Peter Jamison/Tampa Bay Times
The crash shattered the rear windshield of Evan Rees' Honda sedan. Sitting in the back seat, Rees, a 44-year-old teacher from Sebring, gaped through the empty window frame at the truck that had rear-ended his family on Interstate 4 east of Tampa.
He didn't have long to stare, as a man jumped from the truck's driver-side door and stormed toward the Honda. Rees, who had spent the afternoon at the Florida State Fair with his wife, sister and niece, stepped out to meet him. As a shouting match erupted, the man grabbed him, and the pair tumbled to the ground.
Bystanders pulled them apart. But as Rees rose to his knees, he found himself staring down the barrel of a Glock pistol. His assailant had drawn a gun and aimed it at him. According to the accounts of multiple witnesses, he threatened to kill Rees before lowering his gun.
What the man pulled out next was equally shocking: a badge. The 55-year-old who had attacked and pulled a gun on Rees on the side of I-4 was Thomas Pettis, an off-duty Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office homicide detective.
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