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Off-duty firefighter won't face charges in fatal road-rage incident

Joshua Tullis 'truly sorry' for incident that led to death of Paul Peterman

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – A Broward Sheriff's Office firefighter will not face criminal charges after a man died last year in what appeared to be a road-rage incident in Coral Springs, his attorney said Thursday.

Attorney Eric Schwartzreich said his client, Joshua Tullis, was attacked by Paul Peterman last October while he was sitting in his pickup truck.

Cellphone video showed Peterman diving into the truck of the off-duty firefighter, who then stepped on the gas pedal. Moments later, Peterman would be found dead.

According to an autopsy report, the 37-year-old deaf man died as a result of "multiple blunt force injuries."

According to a closeout memorandum, a medical examiner "could not determine if the injuries to Peterman were caused by being struck by the truck or from striking the ground as he fell from the truck," Assistant State Attorney Michael Horowitz wrote. 

Tullis claimed that he recorded and followed Peterman because he believed that he was going to cause an accident, Horowitz wrote. Tullis said Peterman opened the door of his truck, grabbed his phone and was clawing at him when Tullis decided to drive away, the memo said.

"It's terrifying," Tullis told Local 10 News reporter Michael Seiden in an exclusive interview. "I mean, a guy jumped in through my window." 

According to Horowitz's memo, Tullis said he never looked in his rearview mirror but didn't believe that he ran over Peterman as he drove away. Horowitz said there was also no evidence of the truck striking or running over Peterman.

"I'm truly sorry for him passing, but I did everything that I could to get away from danger at that time," Tullis said.

Horowitz concluded that Tullis cannot be charged with leaving the scene of a crash with injury or death if he wasn't aware what happened.

"While it may be argued that Tullis should have known of the crash based on the circumstances, that argument is speculative and and would not satisfy the required knowledge element," Horowitz wrote.

Tullis said he's "overwhelmed with emotion" and feels a sense of relief, not only for himself, but for his wife and three children.

Paul Peterman died of "multiple blunt force injuries."

Peterman's parents issued a statement saying that they were "disappointed" that the law doesn't allow for prosecutors to charge Tullis.

"The excerpt of the video released to the media by Mr. Tullis does not tell the entire story of what  happened on Oct. 13, 2016," the statement said, in part. "This incident could have easily had a much different ending, and our son would still be alive, had Mr. Tullis not been following and filming Paul, and if Mr. Tullis had chosen not to stop when Paul pulled off the road, open the window of his vehicle and continue to film Paul."

Peterman's parents went on to say that Tullis should have known that he could have been injured when he fell from his truck.

"He also had a moral and ethical responsibility to render aid or should have at least called 911 to report the incident," Peterman's parents said of Tullis.

Schwartzreich defended his client's actions.

"The reason why he didn't stop that day is because someone dove head first into his car and he was attacked, and he left the zone of danger," Schwartzreich said.

Peterman's parents said they are now putting their "faith and trust" in God.

"We pray for all parents who have lost children due to senseless accidents," they said. "This is a broken world we live in. The only hope is through God and his unconditional love and grace."

Tullis said he's also praying for Peterman's family.

"Our hearts go out to his family," Tullis said. "My wife and I, we pray for his family, and we'll continue doing that."

About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.

Peter Burke returned for a second stint of duty at Local 10 News in February 2014.