Video released in fatal firefighter-involved road rage incident

Firefighter Joshua Tullis recorded the man getting out of his vehicle and diving toward him before speeding away

Scroll to the bottom to view footage of the incident. 

By Lisa J. Huriash and Samuel Howard
The Sun Sentinel

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — On the day Paul Peterman died in what police call a road-rage encounter, he pulled over to the side of the road as a Toyota neared from behind, a newly released video shows.

The Toyota driver pulled up next to Peterman's truck and sat there recording with a cellphone for more than 10 seconds when Peterman reacted. Peterman lunged from his truck and reached into the Toyota, extending his arms toward the driver and cellphone, the video shows.

The Toyota driver's recording has been released by his lawyer, showing part of the Oct. 13 confrontation that remains under investigation by Coral Springs police. Officers haven't yet released additional information about the events that led to Peterman's death.

Eric Schwartzreich, an attorney representing Toyota driver Joshua Tullis, said his client, a Broward firefighter, is the victim in an unprovoked encounter documented by the recording.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Peterman's family says the video leaves questions unanswered. "Why did a firefighter pull over on the side of the road?" asked attorney Marc Wites. "Why was his window open? Why did he leave the scene without rendering aid? Why did he wait hours to report it?"

In just one piece of the video, Peterman is seen having pulled off to the side of the road at the intersection of West Atlantic Boulevard and Riverside Drive. During the skirmish, Tullis drove away, police said. Witnesses said Peterman was found unconscious on the roadway about 8:15 a.m.; he died at Broward Health North.

Schwartzreich said the video in its entirety — which was given to police — shows Peterman driving in a "menacing fashion, doing brake checks, driving erratically."

He said Tullis followed him, filming, intending to call 911. Instead, Peterman cut him off and pulled over, Schwartzreich said. He said Tullis stopped, wanting to capture him on film, "worried he'd be followed home."

"You can see Mr. Peterman flipping the bird to my client and then my client rolls down his window, you can see Mr. Peterman get out of his car and dives upward" into Tullis' truck, he said.

He said Tullis drove away and didn't realize Peterman had been hurt until he saw the coverage on the news.

Hours after the incident, Coral Springs police posted a plea to the public on their Facebook page asking anyone with information — or any witness who saw the dark pickup that vanished — to call detectives.

Schwartzreich said Tullis had called him in the morning but didn't arrange for the police to meet them at his law firm late that afternoon due to his own scheduling issues.

"He becomes a victim when Mr. Peterman dives into the car and you can hear him attacking my client," he said. "You can hear what was going on. He becomes a victim of a burglary battery."

Schwartzreich said his client didn't have to stay "and take being attacked."

"He has every right to get away from the danger," he said.

Now the firefighter is removed from a fire truck, "not in the field," until the outcome of an internal investigation, said Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles. He said Tullis works as a firefighter and paramedic in the unincorporated part of the county.

Police said Wednesday it would be weeks before they released new information in the case, including the cause of death.

Wites said he hasn't heard of an official cause of death, only that Peterman died from blunt trauma. "The family can't help but wonder why?" Wites said.

Wites said the family is "going to trust and have faith in the Coral Springs Police Department and the state attorney to fully investigate the matter and find out what happened."

Copyright 2016 the Sun Sentine

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