In a “boot drive,” firefighters approach drivers at busy intersections and ask them to help charities, such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, by dropping cash into an extended boot.
The feel-good tradition turned tragic Wednesday in Lansing, Michigan, when a motorist exchanged words with firefighters about backed-up traffic, drove away, did a U-turn and returned to deliberately run over a firefighter, Lansing police spokesman Robert Merritt said.
Killed in the wreck near the Michigan State University campus was Dennis Rodeman, 35, a seven-year veteran of the Lansing Fire Department.
He was was wearing a reflective vest and other gear and standing in the center lane when the pickup truck struck him, police Capt. Jim Krauss told CNN affiliate WDIV.
The man kept driving until police stopped his vehicle, then tried to flee on foot before officers captured him, police said in a press release.
Grant Jacob Taylor, 22, of Lansing was charged with murder, failing to stop at the scene of a personal injury accident causing death and two counts of fleeing police, Merritt said.
Rodeman had served in the Marines and “survived a tour of duty in Fallujah, Iraq, one of the most dangerous places in the world,” Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said in a statement.
“It is beyond comprehension that this American hero lost his life on the streets of Lansing while collecting charitable contributions for children afflicted by muscular dystrophy,” Bernero said.
Other firefighters at the scene provided emergency medical care, but Rodeman died at a local hospital.
Rodeman married two months ago, Fire Chief Randy Talifarro told WDIV, and he and his wife were expecting a child.
Rodeman was taking part in the citywide “Fill the Boot Blitz” to raise money for the MDA, the charity said on its webpage. Road signs were in place advising drivers to slow down, the police department said.
“There were numerous fire fighters and MDA staff on site who witnessed the incident,” the MDA said. “Safety protocols were in place and fire fighters participating in the boot drive were wearing helmets and reflective safety vests. Safety cones and Fill the Boot signage were also in place.”
“The extended MDA family is in a state of shock and mourning,” MDA President and CEO Steven M. Derks said in a statement.
The Firefighter Nation website said in a tweet that R