Passing Driver Fatally Shoots Gunman Attacking Arizona State Trooper

"I don't know that he would be alive today" without the help, says chief.

A motorist on a road trip to California pulled his car over when he spotted an Arizona state trooper struggling with a gunman. When the trooper asked him for help, he pulled out his own gun and shot the attacker dead, officials said.

“I would just say at this point, ‘Thank you,’” Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said in a message to the driver after he visited the trooper at a hospital. “I don’t know that my trooper would be alive today without his assistance,” he added. Authorities did not name the trooper or the gunman.

According to law enforcement authorities, the bizarre confrontation occurred Thursday on a highway near Tonopah, about 50 miles west of Phoenix, when the lone trooper responded to a call of shots fired and came upon an accident involving an overturned car. Investigators reported that as the trooper began placing flares around the crumpled car to warn off passing traffic, a man who had been inside the vehicle opened fire on the trooper, striking him at least twice, the Arizona Republic reported. He then tackled the trooper.

That’s when the unidentified good Samaritan, who was traveling with his wife, pulled over as he spotted the attacker on top of the trooper, pounding his head into the pavement, according to a statement from investigators. The trooper asked for help as the driver approached. The motorist returned to his car to retrieve his gun, ordered the man to stop and, when he continued to fight the trooper, the motorist fired. Once the gunman was down, another driver who had stopped used the trooper’s radio to call for help.

“He’s in real bad shape. Please send air support, helicopter, please,” said motorist Brian Schober of Scottsdale, Arizona, on a recording of his call. “The suspect is occasionally snorting or breathing. He’s been shot by the passerby. He’s laying right next to the officer.”

The trooper, a 27-year veteran, was airlifted to a hospital, where he was later reported to be in stable condition after surgery to repair bullet wounds in his chest and shoulder.

He is going to be “okay after some recovery,” Milstead said.

The gunman, as well as a woman who had apparently been ejected from the car, were airlifted to the same hospital and later declared dead. The woman apparently died of injuries from the accident.

Police are continuing to investigate the accident.

Milstead told NBC: “In our worst hour, we may need your help, and this was today. ... Thank you. Thank you for the support.”