ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — What started as road rage between an Anne Arundel County man and an off-duty New Jersey police officer turned into a shooting and now a first degree murder trial.

Derek Valcourt explains that police officer is trying to convince a jury he was acting in self defense.

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In opening arguments, defense attorneys argued the off-duty detective shot the victim to protect his family but prosecutors said the only thing he was trying to protect was his bruised ego.

New Jersey Police Detective Joseph Walker has a lot of support as he tries to convince a jury he was protecting his wife and kids when he shot and killed Maryland native Joseph Harvey Jr. after a road rage incident in June of last year. Many of his fellow police officers are rallying by his side and have even raised $100,000 for his defense.

“It’s been really hurtful for us to see the way he’s been depicted as this aggressive, bullying type thug cop when he’s anything but that. He’s a devoted family man that was protecting his family and [himself],” said William Caicedo, New Jersey Police Local 232.

The shooting happened after Walker’s family minivan cut off Harvey’s car. Road rage followed. Both sides agree Harvey began screaming at Walker as they drove, even calling him a racial epithet. Both cars began swerving at each other but when both cars pulled over onto the side of a highway on-ramp, it was Walker who pulled out a gun and shot Harvey three times—leaving Harvey’s friends devastated.

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“He can say all he wants to that he was worried about his wife and children,” said Jenny Jones. “If he was that worried about his wife and children, he shouldn’t have pulled off the road.”

At trial, the judge put a gag order on the attorneys in the case.

Law enforcement groups worry a guilty verdict will have a nationwide impact.

“Most police officers are concerned. `If I take police action, could I be charged for first degree murder?’ That has a chilling effect and may be a deterrent on police officers taking appropriate police action,” said Joseph Occhipinti, National Police Defense Foundation.

If convicted of first degree murder, Walker faces the possibility of life in prison.

Walker remains free on $1 million bail and has been suspended without pay from his police job.

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