In the last couple of days, several people sent me a link to this video of a road rage fight on the Los Angeles freeway, asking for some commentary. If you haven’t seen it before, the video shows a typical example of road rage turning into a particularly ugly situation. To put it mildly, the guy is lucky he is still alive. This could have gone terribly wrong in so many ways, it isn’t even funny. And the best part, it could probably have been avoided…
Take a look at the video first:
- We don’t know what happened before the video starts. When we pick up the action, Mr. Red Shirt is outside of his car, seemingly arguing with the three dudes.
- We also don’t know what is being said at that point but one thing seems clear: neither of the two parties seems to be interested in de-escalating the situation. The body language is clearly hostile and threatening.
- Two guys put up their dukes and start fighting. Red Shirt is the first to attack.
- A third man joins the fun and Red Shirt is wrestled to the ground.
- A kick from behind lands on his head and dazes him. At that point he is out of the fight and on the receiving end.
- He is repeatedly kicked in the head and looks unconscious. The other guys take off in their car.
The biggest strategic mistake Red Shirt makes is getting out of the car. Three against one? Those are really, really bad odds. You’re safer locked inside your vehicle than going outside to face a bunch of guys who are pissed off enough to block you in traffic and then step out to handle whatever (perceived or not) insult you gave them beforehand. Like a friend of mine likes to say: nothing good can come of this.
The biggest tactical mistake is starting the dance with a clumsy and inefficient front snap kick that misses by a mile. You shouldn’t kick if you don’t have solid kicking skills and are reasonably sure you’ll do damage when the kick lands. To make things worse, he does the exact same kick again and predictably, it gets caught allowing his opponent to close in. This takes away his reach advantage and the brawling begins.
Just as predictably, a second guy enters the fray and Mr. Red Shirt is in over his head from then on. He doesn’t see the kick coming from behind and that’s all she wrote. He’s lucky he didn’t get brain damage given the number of soccer kicks he took to the head at the end there.
The thing that baffles me the most is his statement to the press later on. Jerry Patterson, aka Mr. Red Shirt, claims he accidentally cut them off and here’s what he told reporters happened next:
“From that point, they followed me, throwing things at the car, insults out the window,” Patterson told KTLA-TV. “I’m like, ‘Man, come on, I’m sorry.’ ”
After merging onto Interstate 5 from the 710 Freeway, Patterson said the men cut him off on the ramp, stopping him and every car behind him. The situation left him “trapped,” he said, so he stopped his car and got out to fight.
“I think anybody who lives in L.A. and drives in this traffic every day like I do for a living, it’s like you kind of get [upset] sometimes at people,” Patterson told KTLA “But there’s a difference between getting mad at someone and trying to kick someone in the head when they’re down.”
Here are the key points of this statement:
- “The situation left him “trapped,” he said, so he stopped his car and got out to fight.” OK, so three guys cut you off in traffic after you did the same to them and you think your best option is to get out of the car and fight? Seriously? That’s the big plan? I don’t think I even have to explain how monumentally stupid that is.
- “But there’s a difference between getting mad at someone and trying to kick someone in the head when they’re down.” Or in other words: “I lost the fight so it isn’t fair I got beat up.” Seriously?
Like I said in my post on getting knocked out in a street fight, Mr. Patterson is not a victim here. He chose to escalate the situation. He chose to get out of his car. He chose to attack first. He had other options but didn’t take them and you can see where he ended up. We’ll see how the courts decide but I seriously doubt they are going to agree with a plea of self-defense because of those very choices. Now you could argue that his monkey brain had taken over and to a degree, I’d say you’re right. But I don’t think it’s impossible to cool your jets when you’re in a situation like this one. Lots of people do it every single day.
The worst part is this: it isn’t his first time getting caught on video in a road rage incident. And in that case, he went to jail on an outstanding warrant. How do you think this new incident will look in light of his previous behaviour?
I’ve said it before: the days of anonymity are pretty much gone. There are cameras everywhere and virtually every cellphone can make a video good enough to convict you if you mess up. If you live in a city, and even in the suburbs or in the country, you should assume being filmed doing whatever nasty stuff you’re doing. That means when the police ask you about it later on, your statement has to be in tune with what the footage shows. Regardless of how justified you think you are in your actions, if the video proves different you’ll end up in a heap of trouble.
Just ask Mr. Patterson.
Rick Matz says
Good post! Bad mistakes.
Pretty spot on with the comments.
I think even if he ‘attacked’ first, the others are in for a bit of legal actions themselves (two on one, kicking his head when down).
If he was threatened such that he felt a need to fight – why not use the car as a weapon?
Mostly, a case of escalation on all parties involved. Thanks for the posting.
I focused on the Red Shirt because he got the short end of the stick. That doesn’t mean the three others are innocent though. but they clearly had better tactics… :-)
The kick could still be considered self defense since he was blocked in. The minute the second guy joined in – that is when I felt the law tips the scale in his favor.
Plus, those three guys are cowards and red shirt is ignorant for fighting three when he could have stayed in his car.
I think it depends on the lawyers involved and how well they’ll argue their case. Given that his non-verbal communication is by no means soothing (he is clearly escalating the situation), I’m not sure that kick will be considered self-defense. Had he been in an arms down, palms out stance, making placating gestures, his odds in court would probably be better.
Here’s the thing: if you are in the wrong when you start a fight, you don’t magically end up in the right if you lose, regardless of what the opposition did. That’s not how the court system works and it’s also not the legal definition of self-defense in most countries. It may not be fair, it may not be justice, but it is the system we have to live with until laws change.
It appears the victim was involved in an earlier road rage aincident where he assaulted another person. Karma’s a bitch!
It appears indeed as I wrote that in the second to last paragraph… :-)
William Acevedo says
hahahaha you did! ops!
No worries. :-)