Palm Beach Road Rage Incident Leads to Shots Fired, One Man—Not the Shooter—Charged

Palm Beach Road Rage Incident Leads to Shots Fired, One Man—Not the Shooter—Charged

The side vent window of a silver Honda was shot out during a Palm Beach, Florida, road rage incident. Palm Beach Police Department Photo.

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A road rage incident in Palm Beach last Thursday illustrates why lawyers tell those who carry a gun for self-defense to control their anger and just learn to let stupid things go rather than let road rage get the best of them. Situations can escalate quickly, often from people misreading the actual events playing out around them, and it can become unclear who is in the right or worse, both parties can lose out big time, either financially, with jail time or even losing their life.

According to a Palm Beach Daily News, several cars were lined up on the street in the middle of the afternoon waiting for a car at the head of the line to parallel park. The car was apparently taking an inordinate amount of time to get in the spot—as parallel parking can challenge even some experienced drivers—when a 37-year-old man with two children ages 9 and 10 with him in a Hyundai honked. A person in a silver Honda in front of the Hyundai, even though he wasn’t the one parking and was waiting as well, took exception to the honk and flipped Hyundai Man the bird.

Hyundai Man, even more impatient after the bird was shot at him, decided to drive around the silver Honda, and passing with his windows rolled down, allegedly shouted, “I was not honking at you,” in hopes of setting the message of his impatience straight.

However, at that same moment, not sure what Hyundai Man was doing after Honda Man had flipped him the bird and seeing him driving up with his windows down, Honda Man, a 29-year-old, with a female passenger in his car, grabbed his silver and black Taurus 9mm and pointed it at the Hyundai.

Though it may not be called this by name in the statutes, flashing a gun without firing to frighten or intimidate is considered “brandishing” and is illegal in most states. Causing people to fear for their safety doesn’t always have the desired tactical effect either of making them run away. Sometimes they are armed as well, just as Hyundai Man was. And sometimes they pull that gun out and use it, just as Hyundai Man did.

Later telling police “he feared for his life and his children’s lives” after seeing the man pointing a gun at them, the man in the Hyundai quickly drew his own firearm from his console. The Honda drove away, but not before Hyundai Man fired a shot at it, shattering a vent window on the Honda. Hyundai Man followed the Honda.

Here’s where some people might look at what the guy in the Hyundai did by firing first and say, “He’s in trouble. He screwed up.” Well, maybe.

But from a legal standpoint, Hyundai Man, did at least one smart thing here. He made sure he was the first one to call 911. Self-defense lawyers often encourage their clients involved in any road rage incident where a gun becomes involved or any act of violence is committed to be the first one to call police as that is typically who police listen to more.

“Of the things that get many people I deal with arrested, probably somewhere between 85 and 88 percent is road rage,” Emily Taylor, with the Houston, Texas, law firm Walker & Taylor, PLLC says. “That’s not really the most common defensive incident. But it is the most likely to get you arrested by a wide margin.”

The reason why, according to James Phillips, a Florida self-defense attorney with the firm Katz & Phillips, P.A., is that often the person who instigated the road rage incident, causing the person to draw his or her firearm, immediately calls 911 and makes a false report.

“I would say, probably 75 percent of the time there are no shots fired,” Phillips says. “Usually, it is the gun being flashed to de-escalate. And the client thinks that because it’s de-escalated it’s done with, so he keeps driving. Then the other person calls 911, and when the client gets home the cops are showing up or they’re pulling him over down the road because the other guy gets his tag number.”

So Hyundai Man was smart to make that first call. Honda Man wasn’t.

When police arrived, despite the man in the Hyundai initially neglecting to mention that he had fired the shot, according to the Daily News, police soon discovered that fact when they quickly found the Honda and its occupants and saw the window was shot out.

“The driver of the Honda would later tell police that everything happened so fast, he didn’t know if he fired his gun,” the Daily News reported. He apparently didn’t. Just the man in the Honda did, and fortunately for him, even the woman in the car with Honda Man, pretty much corroborated his story.

She told police the man she was with has “anger management issues,” and confirmed when the guy in the Hyundai honked, both she and the man with her flipped the guy the bird and then the guy she was with pulled his gun out and pointed it at the other man as he drove up. They drove of when “the front vent window (of their car) suddenly shattered.”

“Investigators found that the 37-year-old Hyundai driver acted in self-defense when he shot toward the Honda, because ‘he believed his life and the lives of his children were in danger’ when the Wellington man (guy in the Honda) pointed his gun at them,” the Daily News cited from the arrest report.

For his part in being the first to pull his gun and point it in a threatening manner, the driver in the Honda is now facing three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and as of the time of the article, was being held at the Palm Beach County Jail on $150,000 bond.

There was no mention of whether the person trying to parallel park ever made it into that spot.

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