On Thursday, March 19, 2009, at approximately 3:02 P.M. Trooper Michael E. Coulter, while on routine patrol in Saint Lucie County responded to I-95 north of State Road 70, in response to a BOLO for a white-colored Ford Explorer SUV that had just been carjacked from the Hess Gas Station, located at 4696 Okeechobee Road, in Fort Pierce. The vehicle’s owner, Carrie Lynn Johnson, had been run over during the carjacking and had sustained injuries as a result of the violent felony crime. At 3:06 P.M., Trooper Coulter observed the stolen SUV on I-95 while it traveled northbound south of State Road 614 (Indrio Road), and began to pursue the vehicle. At the request of the Saint Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, Trooper Coulter assumed the lead role in pursuing the SUV prior to the pursuit crossing county lines.
After entering into Indian River County, the Ford SUV continued northbound on I-95 north of the 144-mile post where it was eventually driven into the median. The driver, Carlos Javier Perez, exhibiting an absolute disregard for the safety of other traffic, jumped out of the vehicle while it was still in motion, ran across the southbound lanes and headed towards the tree line. Trooper Coulter, followed by deputies from Saint Lucie and Indian River Counties, followed him. The suspect was seen carrying a large saw-like knife in his left hand as he ran. As the suspect neared the tree line, he abruptly turned and faced Trooper Coulter, who was now out of his patrol unit and pursuing him on foot. The suspect began to beat his chest with his right hand, which now held the large knife. Trooper Coulter, with his firearm drawn and trained on the suspect, commanded him to drop his weapon on several occasions, all of which were ignored by the knife-wielding felon. The suspect, without warning, reached into his waistband with his left hand, pulled a pistol and pointed it directly at Trooper Coulter. The suspect’s pistol was a BB gun that resembled a Colt .45. Trooper Coulter and the suspect fired their weapons simultaneously. The gun-wielding suspect, struck by each round fired by Trooper Coulter, fell to the ground. Trooper Coulter was not injured, and remained poised during the entire incident. The wounded suspect was immediately secured, then treated for his gunshot wounds. Mortally wounded, the suspect was airlifted from the scene and taken to a local hospital where he subsequently died during surgery.
Trooper Coulter’s heroic actions demonstrate his commitment to the Florida Highway Patrol’s values of Courtesy, Service and Protection, in that he exhibited a fearlessness that all Troopers hope to demonstrate when called upon in a moment’s notice.
Trooper Michael E. Coulter, is hereby commended for his act of heroism and recognized as a most worthy recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol’s most distinguished award, the Medal of Valor.
Colonel John T. Czernis
Director, Florida Highway Patrol