On February 15, at the side of Interstate 4 in Seffner, some frightened children in a car took cell phone video of a roadside brawl.
They especially noticed the man who'd been on the bottom. He was later identified as Tom Pettis, a homicide detective with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
The man on the top was Evan Rees, a school teacher from Sebring.
"Oh my God he has a gun, he has a gun," one child says, of Pettis. "Tell dad to get in the car, tell him to get in the car."
After pointing the gun, Pettis held it for 30 seconds until re-holstering.
"I was just scared for my family. I had three women in the car with me," Rees said.
Rees was pulled off of Pettis, and he later showed detectives facial and neck wounds.
The brawl started when Pettis rear-ended Rees.
They got out and argued.
Though Pettis denied it, Rees said later Pettis threatened to kill him, and choked and punched him.
"I just kind of did a little foot sweep, and put him to the ground and held on, I held on to restrain him so he couldn't assault me anymore," Rees said.
Pettis was initially charged with aggravated assault with a gun, and with battery.
In the video, when he follows Rees out of frame, he allegedly punches Rees in the head.
But the state attorney says he can't prove the gun wasn't for self-defense.
According to Pettis' attorney, the battery charge will also be dropped as long as Pettis completes community service.
"He was treated as any other first offender who comes into the criminal justice system," said Pettis' attorney Norman Cannella.
But Rees wonders whether Pettis is getting preferential treatment, as Pettis is reportedly set to testify in several homicide trials.
"I think I'm getting a raw deal, and I think Florida is getting a raw deal," Rees said. "I would hate to see this guy do it again to somebody else."
Rees says he was never called by the state attorney about dropping the charge.
The state attorney's office says it cannot comment on whether any plea deals are being worked out.
However, it insists they apply the law equally, no matter what a suspect does for a living.
Pettis retired from the Hillsborough Sheriff's office following the incident.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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