By Grayson Kamm and Jessica Clark
First Coast News

FRUIT COVE, FL -- Deputies say an off-duty JSO officer shot an attacker as the man beat him along the side of the road. Both men have now been released from the hospital.

Detectives say Officer Jason Weathington was being beaten by Nicholas Kelco, and shot the suspect to defend himself.

Both Kelco, 20, and Officer Weathington were treated at nearby Baptist Medical Center South and have since been released. Kelco is in police custody.

Deputies say Kelco’s criminal record shows a past arrest for at least one similar incident, a battery with a weapon.

Another suspect, an unnamed 18-year-old, is also expected to be charged in the case. He’s accused by deputies of provoking the entire incident by “throwing a deadly missile” -- a full can of beer -- at the officer’s car.

The ordeal began late Thursday night on the Julington Creek Bridge that leads from the Duval County community of Mandarin into the St. Johns County community of Fruit Cove.

According to Sgt. Chuck Mulligan, a spokesman for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, Weathington was off-duty in his personal vehicle.

He and a companion were in his car on the Julington Creek Bridge when four people in another vehicle threw what appeared to be beer cans at the officer's car, Mulligan said.

Mulligan told First Coast News that Weathington called in the incident to St. Johns County deputies, and then followed the suspects' car down Fruit Cove Road until it stopped at Cheryl Court.

Officer Weathington identified himself to the suspects as a police officer, Mulligan said, but only two of the four men got down on the ground as ordered.

Mulligan says a third person went into the woods nearby and came back with a large piece of wood, possibly a handle or part of a tool.

Mulligan says the suspect began beating the off-duty officer with the object.

Weathington managed to fire his pistol at the attacker, and hit the man at least once, Mulligan said.

According to St. Johns County deputies, the two suspects who had gotten to the ground stayed there, but the other two suspects -- including the attacker -- climbed back into their truck and sped off to the north, into Jacksonville.

The injured officer apparently gave chase, but could not keep up with the suspects' vehicle.

Neighbors say Jacksonville police caught up to the two suspects who fled after they crashed their truck into a power pole at Old St. Augustine Road and Bartram Park Boulevard.

Officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office picked up the pair and took them in for questioning.

JSO officers have jurisdiction to operate in St. Johns County and vice-versa because all of Florida's law enforcement agencies are chartered by the state.

Since the county line is at the center of Julington Creek, deputies say they are working to determine the exact spot on the bridge where the incident began. That will determine some of the charges that may be brought against the suspects, as well as which State Attorney's Office will decide those charges.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Melissa Bujeda says Weathington is a patrol officer who has served on JSO's force for 3 ½ years. He works in JSO's Zone 5, which covers Northwest Jacksonville.

We will continue to follow this story and we'll have much more on First Coast News beginning at 5 p.m.

I know they don't always have room for all the details, but I'm left with a mental image of the two guys who complied still face down on a back road somewhere.