It’s a daily and potentially dangerous plague on America’s streets: road rage.
But while it seldom results in anything more than traded screams and obscene gestures, it can occasionally escalate into acts of extreme violence.
Two road rage shootings over the weekend left two people dead: a man in Kansas City and a mother driving three children in her minivan in Independence.
On Friday night, a 35-year-old Texas man, Clinton R. Alsobrook, was shot and killed near Interstate 29 and Missouri 152.
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A passenger in Alsobrook’s vehicle was treated for minor injuries.
Bobby T. Crumpton, 22, of Wichita, was charged by Platte County prosecutors Monday with second-degree murder in Alsobrook’s death.
“No one should lose their life because someone gets angry behind the wheel,” Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said Monday in a written statement. “Every road rage incident is dangerous, but some end in tragedy. People are driving vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds, often at high rates of speed. But the danger is compounded when someone pulls a gun.”
On Sunday night, 22-year-old Whitney M. Gray was fatally shot by the driver of another vehicle in the area of Winner Road and Sterling Avenue in Independence.
Gray was driving a minivan with three children inside when she was shot, Independence police said. The three children in her van — a teenager, a 3-year-old, and an 8-month-old — were not injured.
“She was great,” her father, Sean Gray, said Monday. “She was a great mother, and she was an awesome person.”
He declined to comment further.
Area police departments say they have not seen a recent uptick in reported road rage incidents — in part because they are almost a daily occurrence.
Jennifer Lundgren, chairwoman of the psychology department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said a combination of stress and a sense of anonymity that people feel behind the wheel can increase the risks of a road rage encounter.
When people don’t feel a sense of connection to the other person, it may prompt aggressive behavior like horn-honking or tailgating while underestimating the likelihood that the other person may respond aggressively, she said.
Lundgren also said that the general level of stress many people carry with them can lead to confrontations.
“When people feel rushed or are in a hurry, they don’t have a great deal of patience when someone gets in their way or slows them down,” she said.
Officer John Lacy, a spokesman for the Overland Park Police Department, provided several tips for drivers faced with a road rage encounter:
▪ Move over if someone is tailgating you, or allow them to pass.
▪ Try to minimize eye contact with the aggressive driver.
▪ Do not use your horn excessively when engaging the aggressive driver.
▪ Do not give inappropriate hand gestures.
▪ If it (aggressive road rage) continues, contact the police or drive to the nearest police station.
Independence police on Monday said they were searching for the driver of a white SUV they think was involved in the killing of Whitney Gray.
A white SUV was also involved in a shooting incident last Thursday in Lee’s Summit, although police said Monday the two incidents were not related and they are still investigating if it was a case of road rage.
That incident occurred in the area of Northeast Douglas and Northeast Victoria Drive. Officers spoke to a driver who said that someone followed them from a nearby business parking lot and fired two shots into their vehicle.
The suspect vehicle in the Lee’s Summit incident was described as a newer model, white four-door Chevrolet Tahoe with rear end and rear bumper damage.
Detectives in Kansas City, Kan., are still investigating the June 19 road rage killing of 24-year-old Ramon Minjares-Garcia near 18th Street and Central Avenue.
Kansas City, Kan., police described the suspect vehicle as a reddish, smaller SUV. It appeared to be a newer model.
Minjares-Garcia was in a 2006 blue Honda Civic that was following the SUV on 18th Street from Parallel Parkway. The SUV driver kept hitting his brakes, and the victim’s car passed it, police said.
Three other men were in the car with the victim, and they told police that someone in their car asked the SUV driver what he was doing, or words to that effect.
At Central Avenue, the driver of the SUV fired multiple shots, killing Minjares-Garcia.
While Independence police are continuing to investigate the circumstances in Gray’s killing, court documents filed in Platte County Circuit Court provide Crumpton’s version of events.
Crumpton said Alsobrook was driving erratically as they both were eastbound on Missouri 152. Alsobrook’s SUV struck Crumpton’s car as they exited southbound onto the I-29 exit ramp.
Crumpton said Alsobrook ran off the roadway, court records stated.
Armed with a loaded handgun, Crumpton said he got out of his vehicle and walked toward Alsobrook. Crumpton said he heard Alsobrook yell at him, “I’m going to kill you.”
Crumpton said he felt Alsobrook’s SUV attempted to drive toward him and began shooting toward the engine block and the driver’s side view mirror.
Crumpton said he opened fire to get the vehicle to stop coming toward him, according to court records.
Not knowing if Alsobrook was armed, Crumpton told investigators he shot at the SUV because he feared for his life.
After the shooting, Crumpton said the SUV rolled farther south in the grass, where it stopped.
Crumpton said he got back into his car and drove back onto the highway to the gas station, where he called 911.
According to court documents, police did not find a weapon in Alsobrook’s vehicle.
“If you’re the victim of a road rage incident, try to drive to a safe place. If you’re the instigator, this case is a tragic reminder of how quickly things can get out of control,” Zahnd said.
Relatives of Alsobrook declined to comment.
Anyone with information about the June killing of Minjares-Garcia or Sunday night’s killing of Gray is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).