Ambushed Arizona trooper saved by armed passing motorist

PHOENIX, Jan 12 (Reuters) - A passing motorist in Arizona fatally shot a man who had ambushed and wounded a state police officer along an interstate highway on Thursday, authorities said.

The unidentified motorist saw the attacker "getting the better" of a state trooper who had been shot in the shoulder and pulled over to ask the officer if he could help, state Department of Public Safety Director Colonel Frank Milstead told a news conference. The incident took place west of Phoenix.

The male officer, a veteran of 27 years whose name was not immediately released, suffered a severe wound, but was expected to survive, Milstead said.

The man police said attacked the officer was not identified.

"I don't know that my trooper would be alive today without his assistance," Milstead said of the civilian.

It was too early to know whether the motorist will face any charges in connection with the shooting, said department spokesman Bart Graves.

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After getting permission from the trooper, Milstead said the civilian retrieved a gun from his car and ordered the attacker to stop.

"The suspect refuses (and) the uninvolved third party fires, striking and killing the suspect," Milstead said. The civilian then picked up the trooper's radio and summoned assistance.

Milstead said he had not yet had a chance to speak to the man, who was traveling with his wife to California at the time.

Investigators said the officer was on his way to a call of shots fired at a vehicle at about 4:20 a.m. when he encountered a rollover accident.

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He exited his vehicle and began laying out flares when he was attacked, shot and became engaged in a pitched fight with his attacker, Milstead said. The motorist saw the officer struggling with the attacker and asked if he could intervene.

An initial investigation indicates the attacker was in the rollover accident that also claimed the life of a woman, who was ejected from the car in the crash, authorities said. There was no immediate indication of a motive for the attack.

Related: Police officers shot in Palm Springs

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Police officers shot in Palm Springs
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Police officers shot in Palm Springs
Palm Springs Police Department photo shows officer Lesley Zerebny, killed while on duty in Palm Springs, California, U.S. on October 8, 2016. Courtesy Palm Springs Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Palm Springs Police Department photo shows officer Jose Vega, killed while on duty in Palm Springs, California, U.S. on October 8, 2016. Courtesy Palm Springs Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Palm Springs Police officers salute as the bodies of two officers who were shot by a suspect earlier in the day in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
Hearses carry the bodies of two slain Palm Springs Police Department officers in a procession to the county coroner in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
Members of the Palm Springs Fire Department salute as the cortege passes, led by the bodies of two officers who were shot by a suspect earlier in the day in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
Family and friends of two slain Palm Springs Police Department officers board a bus to join a procession to the county coroner in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
A hearse carries the body of one of two slain Palm Springs Police Department officers in a procession to the county coroner in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
Members of the Palm Springs Fire Department salute as the cortege passes, led by the bodies of two officers who were shot by a suspect earlier in the day in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
Police officers are shown near their armored vehicles during a standoff where three officers were shot by a suspect in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
Police officers from various agencies are shown at their command center during a standoff where three officers were shot by a suspect in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
Armed police officers are shown during a standoff where three officers were shot by a suspect in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
A Palm Springs police officer returns to his car during a standoff where three officers were shot by a suspect in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
A police car is parked near the Islamic Society of Palm Springs in Coachella, California on December 11, 2015, after the area was sealed off when a fire broke out at the mosque. Authorities in California have launched a probe after a fire broke out at a mosque in California, officials said. A spokeswoman for the Riverside County Fire Department told AFP that firefighters had rushed to the Islamic Society of Palm Springs shortly after smoke and flames were seen coming out of the building at around noon. AFP PHOTO/ GUILLAUME MEYER / AFP / Guillaume Meyer (Photo credit should read GUILLAUME MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)
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(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Ben Klayman and Sandra Maler)

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