PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Friends of fallen Phoenix police officer Paul Rutherford are remembering him as a dedicated hero who lost his life too soon.
Officer Rutherford was killed Thursday while assisting two people who were in a minor car crash. While he began to respond to an emergency across the street, he was hit by another vehicle. He died at the hospital.
"It was hard to believe. The fact that Paul had died helping somebody is not surprising," said Chris Gnam.
Gnam said Rutherford was his sensei for the last 10 years; Rutherford taught karate on top of being a police officer.
"He did everything he could to serve the community. He taught some women self defense classes when he could; he was eager to help anybody. That’s Paul. It was like he was meant to be a police officer," Gnam said.
Officer Rutherford served in the Air Force for 10 years and worked with the Phoenix Police Department for almost 23 years.
"I’ve heard it said, he embodied the badge, and yeah, he did. When we think of what a police officer should be like, Paul was that," Gnam said.
"He was loved and respected. He really is a hero," said Drake Sass, Rutherford's best friend.
Sass met Rutherford in 2001 through karate. Since then, they practically became brothers.
Sass said Rutherford's sons want everyone to know their dad was a hero.
His friends say the only thing Rutherford loved more than serving the community and karate was his family.
"I heard today his last words were 'wife,' which does not surprise me," Gnam said. "He always spoke highly of his wife. You could see the love."
"The older we got together the more we started talking about our kids and what they’re doing," Sass said.
Both of his friends say Rutherford lit up when he talked about his grandson.
"You could see him glowing."
"He was a phenomenal human being. The world has become a slightly less better place," Sass said.