Suspect named in fatal I-75 deputy involved assault

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Edward Strother, 53, attacks Lee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy First Class Dean Bardes (Photo via Lee County Sheriff’s Office).

ESTERO, Fla. — A 53-year-old man was identified as the person who attacked a Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputy Monday morning before being shot and killed by a passerby, the department said Tuesday afternoon.

Edward Strother was killed as he attacked Deputy First Class Dean Bardes, the sheriff’s office said.

The sheriff’s office declined to name the passerby, stating he did not want to be named.

Bardes was working a crash on Interstate 75 when Strother drove past him, nearly running him over, the sheriff’s office said. Bardes gave chase in his marked cruiser, following Strother to the Corkscrew Road exit.

Strother rushed Bardes and slammed him to the ground after both men exited their vehicles, the sheriff’s office said. As they grappled, Bardes struggled to keep his weapon away from Strother. It was not immediately clear whether Strother was able to grab Bardes’ weapon.

The passerby, a Concealed Weapons Permit holder, commanded Strother to stop the attack, the sheriff’s office said. The passerby threatened to shoot Strother if he didn’t leave Bardes alone, a source said. When Strother didn’t heed the warning, the passerby opened fire.

Strother had an active misdemeanor arrest warrant for failure to appear in court on a battery charge, according to the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Mike Scott issued a statement about the encounter:

The multiple egregious acts of aggression toward law enforcement officers across this country over the recent past have taken us all by surprise. Just this last weekend four (4) law enforcement officers lost their lives to deadly attacks.

Deputy Dean Bardes faced a similar set of circumstances on the morning of November 14, 2016. After a short vehicle pursuit Dean found himself in the fight of his life as he served to preserve the peace and dignity of this fine community. At the end of the pursuit Dean was viciously attacked by the motorist he just stopped.

During this brutal confrontation Dean sustained physical injuries which he will recover from. I appreciate Dean’s courage, and I pray for his full recovery.

I want to thank the many motorists who offered themselves as eyewitnesses. My deepest and sincere appreciation goes to the citizen who engaged the crazed assailant and stopped the imminent threat of great bodily harm or death to our Deputy.

Bardes is on administrative leave with pay, according to his sheriff’s office personnel file, which deems him an “exemplary employee.” His performance reviews cite an “excellent attitude,” good leadership skills and a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.

He’s received commendations for preventing suicides, searching for a missing student and recovering a stolen purse since joining the force in 2004. He was promoted to his current rank in 2010.

Bardes was involved in an accident in May that the sheriff’s office review board ruled was his second preventable accident in 36 months, his file shows.

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