A U.S. Army Sergeant and combat medic who openly opposed the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy has been identified as the man killed Thursday night on Interstate 490. Close friends describe Darren Manzella as selfless and caring.
"Darren is the type of person that if it was to help somebody or save somebody, he would have done it. If he knew the consequences but he also knew it would help somebody, he would have done it a hundred times over," said J.T. Squires.
Darren Manzella, 36, who gained national attention in the fight to end the ban on gays in the U.S. military, was killed on Thursday Night.
According to deputies with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Manzella was trying to push his car off 490 after a minor crash. That's when deputies say another vehicle hit him from behind. Manzella was pronounced dead at the scene.
In 2007, Manzella sat down with 60 minutes. He came out while he was serving in Kuwait and was later honorably discharged.
"It just seems so awful to me that somebody that went somewhere where you would expect something so terrible to happen to come home safe and when he's home safe something happens," said Squires, who was best man in Manzella's wedding.
Friends of Manzella say they were not surprised that he was pushing his car out of the road on Thursday night. They said that is just who he is.
"Trying to get that car off 490 was Darren trying to make sure nobody else got hurt. He never thought of himself," said Squires.
Squires said Manzella's family is requesting privacy to grieve.
"They are devastated. It's just they need their privacy. They need to grieve. They are really good people," said Squires.
In addition to his parents, Manzella leaves behind a husband. The couple married in July and many have told us Manzella's fight for equality in the U.S. military has left a legacy that people will always remember.
Squires wants to see that legacy live on.
"I would love to see some kind of fund or some kind of charity set up in Darren's name because he was somebody that was loved so much and gave so much love," said Squires.
He says no matter what, Manzella's legacy will always live in him and the family.
"We are going to get through this but we really miss him. We are always going to miss him," said Squires.