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Friday, September 23, 2022

Road rage suspect accused of targeting car with 4-year-old inside

Dustin Thomas Alden Murphey
Dustin Thomas Alden Murphey

A 33-year-old Ocala man is accused of intentionally driving his truck into a vehicle with a young child inside it and running it off the road during a wild road rage confrontation that started at a Leesburg gas station.

Dustin Thomas Alden Murphey was charged with two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and single counts of giving a false ID to law enforcement, DUI (third conviction in less than 10 years), and knowingly driving with a suspended license. He’s being held in the Lake County Jail on $36,000 bond.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, Leesburg police responded to a report of a possible hit-and-run crash at the gas station at 1417 S. 14th Street. Dispatch reported that a black truck and a white truck were possibly involved, and both vehicles had left the scene and were chasing each other. A short time later, dispatch received a call from one of the drivers, who said someone hit his white Ford truck and followed him to his house in the Lake Denham Estates neighborhood, according to the police report.

The first officer who arrived encountered the black truck at the intersection of Sandhill Place and Caspian Street near the entrance/exit of the neighborhood. Murphey was the lone occupant of the vehicle, and he identified himself as Jack J. Cugno. It was later determined the name and birthdate he provided with were false when his Florida ID was found in his wallet, the report said.

Meanwhile, another officer went to the victim’s house. The victim told he officer he was picking up his 4-year-old son on South 14th Street near Gunston Street when a black truck swerved in front of him and slammed on the brakes. The victim said they both pulled into the gas station. He said both he and Murphey got out of their vehicles and stood by their open driver’s side doors. The victim said Murphey was yelling threats to batter him, according to the report.

The victim said Murphey quickly reached inside his truck for something. The victim said he feared for his and his son’s life that Murphey was reaching for a weapon, so he quickly got in his truck and drove away. He said as he drove away, he accidentally struck the open driver’s side door of Murphey’s truck, and that Murphey got into his vehicle and started chasing him, the report said.

The victim said while he was driving south on South 14th Street, Murphey raced up next to him and intentionally crashed into the passenger side of his truck. The victim said he sped up to get away, but Murphey caught up to him and again intentionally drove into the driver’s side of his truck, causing it to veer off the road. The victim said he was able to regain control and drive to his house while Murphey followed him, according to the report.

The victim said once they arrived at his house, he quickly grabbed his son and ran inside. He said Murphey got out of his truck and started yelling threats of battery for a short time before driving towards the neighborhood exit. The officer immediately told the other officer to detain Murphey, the report said.

The victim’s white truck had black transfer paint on both sides. Damage was estimated at $4,000, according to the report.

Officers spoke with Murphey, who became loud and uncooperative when told he was under arrest for aggravated battery. The officers were unable to perform field sobriety exercises due to Murphey’s behavior. While being taken to the Leesburg Police Department for booking, Murphey made several conflicting statements about the victim pointing a gun at him. First, he said the victim pointed the gun at him. Then he said the victim might have pointed a gun, and then he said the victim might have been holding his fingers in the shape of a gun. Finally, Murphey said the victim pointed a gun at him while holding his son, the report said.

Officers were advised by dispatch that Murphey only has an ID card and had several suspensions, as well as an active warrant out of Alachua County for violating his probation for DUI. Murphey continued to be uncooperative in the booking room and the decision was made to take him straight to the jail. Once in the patrol car, Murphey started saying he wanted to kill himself and banging his head on the metal divider in the car. Murphey had to be placed in a restraint chair at the jail due to his behavior and threats of suicide, according to the report.

A witness at the gas station told officers she was pumping gas and heard tires screeching as the black and white trucks pulled into the parking lot. She said both drivers got out of their vehicles and yelled at each other. The witness said Murphey reached into his truck for something and the victim quickly got into his truck and left the scene. She said Murphey got into his truck and chased after the victim “crazily,” driving into oncoming traffic. The witness said neither Murphey nor the victim approached each other, nor did she see any weapons, the report said.

Murphey, who was convicted of DUI in December 2012 and August 2019, will answer to the latest charges in Lake County Court on Aug. 8.

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