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Story highlights

Arizona state trooper attacked by a highway shooter

An armed, passing driver stopped and shot the attacker dead, saving the trooper's life

Watch “New Day” and “CNN Newsroom” each Friday to see inspiring stories of officers going above and beyond the call of duty.

(CNN) —  

The gunshot that struck state trooper Ed Andersson was “one in a thousand,” he said.

“A half inch to my right it would have missed me,” the Arizona State Police officer told CNN. “A few inches to my left, it would have hit my vest.”

But the bullet found Andersson’s right shoulder – paralyzing it and preventing him from reaching his own weapon.

At 4:30 in the morning, it was dark and desolate along Interstate 10 near Tonopah, Arizona. The only other person around was the man who just shot Andersson, and an injured female companion.

And the attack wasn’t over.

Beyond the Call of Duty

  • Do you know an officer who has gone above and beyond what the job requires? E-mail us at BeyondtheCallofDuty@cnn.com.

His gun now empty, the man charged Andersson, striking him with the weapon and bashing his head into the pavement.

“I kicked him into the fast lane hoping that a car would come by and hit him,” Andersson said. But it didn’t work.

Andersson rolled onto his right side, shielding his weapon from the attacker.

“I knew if he got my gun it’d be all over right then,” he said.

Then, Andersson heard a voice. And gunshots.

It was over. The attacker lay dead in front of him; Andersson was alive.

But who saved him?

A former felon, he would later learn. A man who turned his life around and found God. A lifelong hunter who begged a judge to reinstate his rights, allowing him to carry a gun again – the one he just fired.

01:36 - Source: CNN
Motorist kills man beating wounded cop

A man who is now Andersson’s friend for life.

’God … put me in that place’

Thomas Yoxall woke the morning of January 12th thinking he’d be taking pictures by the end of the day.

The photographer was headed for a conference in Anaheim, California, and had just began the five-hour drive along I-10 when a patrol car sped past him.

“I was thinking, not a good way to start the morning with someone getting pulled over,” Yoxall said.

The flashing lights faded into the foreground as Thomas took a sip of his morning coffee.

The lights re-emerged, though, as Thomas approached mile marker 84.

Trooper Andersson hadn’t pulled anyone over. He was responding to calls of a man shooting his weapon at cars on the highway. As he arrived he spotted an overturned vehicle just off the roadway, and two potential victims along the shoulder. A female passenger had been thrown from the car.

“I saw a male subject kneeling and holding a female in his arms,” Andersson said. So he blocked the slow lane with his car, set out flares and called for a medical helicopter.

When he returned to the victim, the man was missing.

“I scan with my flashlight and I found him standing in the emergency lane,” Andersson said. “I could tell he already had his weapon pointed at me.”

The man wasn’t a victim at all. He was the shooter who motorists were reporting to police. And lucky for Andersson, he was down to his last bullet – the same one he plunged into Andersson’s right shoulder before he punched Andersson to the ground.

“I would try to get my Taser out,” Andersson said. “But every time I would do that, he would strike me in the head, and pound my head on the pavement.”

That’s when Thomas Yoxall drove by the scene, seeing the man on top of Andersson.

“He’s beating him in a savage way,” Yoxall said. “Just fist after fist.”

Yoxall pulled over, took his legal firearm from the center console of his pickup and exited onto the highway.