Off-Duty Deputy Saves Couple From Burning Car By Shooting It

Manatee Deputy Willie Finklea used his weapon to save a couple in a burning car.

Manatee Deputy Willie Finklea used his weapon to save a couple in a burning car.

Deputy Willie Finklea Shoots Car To Save Couple

Manatee County, FL – Neil and Claudia Cook were trapped inside their burning vehicle with no way out, then off-duty Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy Willie Finklea rolled up to the scene to save them.

The incident occurred on Sunday, August 19, about 2:27 PM in the 9300 block of Moccasin Wallow Road, according to the Herald-Tribune.

Neil Cook had been driving when he noticed smoke coming from his car.  He pulled over, and discovered that his vehicle was on fire.

He and his wife were unable to get out of their car because the electronic windows and locks had stopped working.

Deputy Finklea was riding his motorcycle with his wife, and stopped to help.  While his wife called 911, he used his personal firearm to carefully shoot through the left rear window.

Neil Cook had been trying to break out his window using his cane, but it didn’t work.  Deputy Finklea said “I saw that they were in a dire situation and I just went into action. … I just wanted to get them out of that car.”

He said, “All I had was my keys and my pocket knife so I had no other tools other than my off-duty weapon to make entry into the car.  I banged on the window several times with my hand.”

Claudia Cook had crawled into the back seat to try to escape, but was unable to get out on her own.  Once the window was broken, Deputy Finklea crawled into the back seat of the Cooks’ vehicle and helped Claudia Cook get out of the burning car.  Her husband was able to crawl to the the front passenger door and get out of the vehicle.

Shortly after the couple escaped from their car, it became engulfed in flames.  The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said that there were no serious injuries because of Deputy Finklea’s actions.

Deputy Finklea and his wife had taken a different road home than normal after attending church.

He said that he doesn’t believe it was an accident that he was there to help the Cooks.  He said, “Just being used by God to help someone in their most desperate time that’s a gift for me.”

He said that he is going to purchase a tool needed to break out a car window for himself, his wife, and his daughter to have if needed.

“Stay prayed up and be ready for anything,” Deputy Finklea said.