JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Ford F-250 stolen from a Jacksonville firefighter Friday morning after he jumped out of the pickup to help someone involved in a crash was recovered early Saturday morning, a fellow firefighter told News4Jax.
Mitchell Johnson, who had just left his shift at a fire station a couple of blocks away, noticed the accident near the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
"I saw it, stopped my truck, got out and went and checked on the driver of the vehicle," Johnson said. "One of them was possibly critical, so they received my complete attention."
While he was tending to the victims, he said, two teenage boys jumped into his truck and sped off.
"I immediately just took off after and they backed down a side street," Johnson said. "I jumped in front of the truck and I was trying to get them to stop. They tried to run me over. I managed to get in front of the truck. I tried to grab my tailgate to get in the back of the truck and the truck. It's a diesel Ford F-250. When you put your foot down on it, it takes off."
The two teenagers got away with not only the truck, but all of Johnson's belongings, including his work uniforms, his wallet with his ID inside and his babies' car seats.
Johnson said he was doing the right thing and he doesn't understand why someone would target him. He said what happened really hurt his feelings.
"It's unbelievable that the people who dedicate their lives and put the job before their families to help others, to serve others ... when, one day, God forbid, you may need our help and we come to help you," Johnson said. "It's just unbelievable."
The tan F-250 with a red firefighter's plate in the front and firefighter and U.S. Marine Corps stickers in the windows was recovered on Wendell Drive, about 12 miles from where it was stolen.
Johnson said he got a call Friday after News4Jax's story aired. An officer stated his truck had been found just miles away from where it was stolen.
He said when he got his truck back, it was scratched and dented, and all of his belongings had been tossed out.
"The financial burden of having to pay insurance deductibles, replacing about $400 worth of car seats, about $400 worth of firefighting gear that I bought personally to make my job easier, so I mean, they put me in a huge hole," Johnson said.
Johnson said he was able to get a good look at the two thieves because they walked over to ask what was going on before they hopped into the truck and took off and there were other witnesses and dashcam video of the theft.
Johnson said police arrested one of the teenagers, but the other is still at large. He said if he were in the same situation, trying to help someone again, he wouldn't change what he did.
"In a moment like that, where it's instantaneously right in front of you, you don't have time to prepare, so I would do the exact same thing again because that's who I am and that's my job," Johnson said.
Johnson suspects the teens went for a joy ride with friends.