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A Navy gunner who joined a police foot chase in Florida that turned into a gunbattle last year was honored Thursday by Sheriff John Rutherford, the Florida Times-Union reported Friday.

Gunner’s Mate Petty Officer 1st Class Juan Gallegos stopped his car and was going to tackle shoplifting suspect Joel Abner, according to media reports. Before Gallegos could get there, Abner pulled a gun and fired, hitting Officer Jared Reston six times.

Reston returned fire, killing Abner, the Florida Times-Union wrote.

Gallegos, now 28, who is stationed aboard the USS Farragut at Mayport Naval Station, called 911 and waited with Reston until another officer arrived, Rutherford said.

"It felt like an eternity," Gallegos told the Jacksonville Daily Record.

Gallegos also provided eyewitness testimony that was essential in helping police determine exactly what happened, Rutherford said.

"Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing for me to do to walk into a gunfight with my fists," Gallegos said at the ceremony, where Gallegos was presented a certificate of appreciation. "I wish I could have helped [Reston] more."


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