A U.S. Navy sailor’s efforts to help someone he thought was a stranded motorist on a busy San Diego freeway ultimately cost him his life, authorities say.
Curtis Fitzherbert Adams, a steelworker construction man with the service, pulled over early Saturday when he spotted a man he thought needed help, only to be shot and killed by that man, according to The Navy Times. The suspected gunman, 21-year-old Brandon Javier Acuna, now faces first-degree murder and second-degree burglary charges in the killing.
Adams, 21, was an active-duty sailor stationed at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.
On Monday, investigators said they were working to determine if two other people were also involved in the young man’s slaying. Adams’ girlfriend, who witnessed the deadly encounter, called 911 to report that her boyfriend had been shot. The two were travelling southbound on Interstate 15 just before 2:20 a.m. when the incident unfolded, NBC San Diego reported.
Emergency responders arrived to find the Seabee with a gunshot wound to his upper torso. In a statement, Lt. Anthony Dupree said it appeared Adams was shot the moment he got out of his vehicle to help. The sailor was rushed to a local hospital, where he later died.
Minutes before Adams was gunned down, authorities said Acuna and his accomplices were involved in a separate shooting just blocks away. In that case, the suspect allegedly shot at a man who caught him trying to break into the man’s car but missed, The Navy Times reported.
Court documents show Acuna has a long criminal history dating back to 2015 when he was 18 years old. In addition to his rap sheet of misdemeanor offenses, records show Acuna was fined and sentenced to three years probation on Sept. 7, six weeks before the deadly shooting.
This summer, he pleaded guilty to creating a public nuisance and, a year prior, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine.
The Navy Times reports Acuna was arraigned in San Diego Superior Court on Halloween and is being held at the San Diego County Central Jail without bail. Police are still working to determine a motive for Saturday’s shooting.
Adams’ relatives are now remembering him as a brave individual who “always wanted to help people.” The New York native enlisted in the Navy in March 2016, military records show.
“He was very excited about deploying and doing his job with the Navy,” Desmond Abrams Jr., the sailor’s cousin, told The San Diego Union Tribune. “He loved the uniform. He was really proud of being a sailor.”
Abrams Jr. said Adams was also proud of his cultural heritage as a first-generation American whose parents emigrated from the West Indies to the U.S.
“He was always proud of our roots, our background, but we’re all Americans at the end of the day,” he added. “He’s a good example of that.”