LAKELAND — Road rage incidents can be scary for those who are the targeted victims, and who don’t know how dangerously the situation might escalate.
That’s particularly true if a gun is involved.
One man, though, appears to have gotten involved in a road rage incident at the wrong place and at the wrong time — in front of an off-duty Polk County Sheriff deputy, the sheriff’s office noted.
The result was that 38-year-old Terry Lee Hays of 6227 Ivanhoe St. in Lakeland was arrested last week,
booked into the Polk County Jail, and charged with improperly exhibiting a firearm — an incident that happened during a road rage incident, the sheriff’s office noted.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said it was a good thing for local citizens that one of his deputies witnessed the whole thing.
“The men and women of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office are always working to keep the community safe,” the sheriff said. “Even while trying to enjoy time off with their families, our deputies find themselves fighting crime.”
It happened on Friday, Dec. 14, noted Donna Wood, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the case.
Wood noted that an off-duty Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputy was driving along South Florida Avenue with his family “when he heard a vehicle horn honking. When the off-duty deputy turned to see where the noise was coming from, he initially saw an elderly white female driving in the inside lane next to his family’s vehicle.”
The deputy’s wife then noticed a man driving a black, 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe right behind the elderly woman’s car, “shaking a gun out of the driver’s side window of the Tahoe,” Wood noted. “It appeared to the off-duty deputy as if the male subject was attempting to intimidate the elderly woman.”
The driver waving the gun was later identified as Hays after the off-duty deputy got his tag number. The deputy followed Hays as he drove to his home on Ivanhoe Street, which is where the deputy contacted the sheriff’s office, letting active duty officers know about what he and his family had just witnessed.
Those deputies responded to Hays’ home. Wood said they later reported that the suspect “was uncooperative and denied the incident took place.”
However, he had another problem: a search of his car.
“Ultimately, the gun Hays used in the incident was located inside his Tahoe,” Wood noted.
Deputies are still trying to determine why this road rage incident took place, and they are actively looking for the elderly woman driver to find out what happened.
Wood said deputies are asking for the public’s help on this case.
Anyone with information about this investigation can call the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200. If they want to remain anonymous, they can call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS (8477) or visit heartlandcrimestoppers.com.
Judd said citizens who get angry behind the wheel of a car and then threaten others will face the consequences.
“We will not tolerate anyone pointing a gun at an innocent person especially a senior citizen,” Judd said. “If we can locate her we may be able to bring more charges against this road rage suspect.”
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