Franklinton, N.C. — A Franklin County magistrate helped avert numerous injuries Monday after a wounded driver plowed into a gas pump and set off a fireball, police and witnesses said.
Jesse Montague Jr., 27, was shot in the back while driving along Sterling Street, and his car then crashed into a pump at a nearby Exxon gas station, sparking an explosion and a 10-foot fireball.
Video from the station's security camera shows the out-of-control car running over the pump and then hitting a pickup truck parked at the station with a woman inside. Meanwhile, about a dozen bystanders scrambled for cover inside the station's convenience store.
Magistrate Jason Cox was working late in his office across the street from the Exxon station when he heard the gunshots and called 911. He then rushed to the station when he saw the gas pump explode.
"It just happened to be a good opportunity to take action," said Cox, a former firefighter. "There was a lot of heat. There were a few people standing there, kind of watching the flames."
He quickly found the station's emergency shut-off valve and cut the flow of gasoline to the pump to help contain the flames before the local fire department arrived.
"I just found my way around the heat and went to the building and found the cut-off and got it shut off," he said.
The explosion caused an estimated $30,000 in damage to the gas station.
Cox then returned to Montague's car and pulled him from the vehicle.
"I heard some people yelling in the parking lot for the victim of the gunshots to get out of the car," he said.
Montague died of the gunshot wound, but no one else was injured in the incident.
Cox said he just did what his instincts told him to do.
"There are plenty of other people, I'm sure, who would have been passing by and done the same thing," he said.
Virginia State Police arrested Rashawn "May May" Arrington, 23, late Tuesday in Southampton County after Franklinton police and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation agents tracked him down through his cell phone calls.
Police say Arrington fired several shots at Montague on Monday. They knew each other and had argued in the past, investigators said.
Arrington is charged with first-degree murder in the case. He made no statements Thursday morning during a brief court appearance.
Montague's death is the first homicide in Franklinton in 18 years.