The fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy in a Denver suburb has become the latest lesson on the dangers of road rage.
It also fits with research that suggests a person who routinely carries a firearm in a vehicle is more likely to trigger an angry encounter than to keep the peace.
Meghan Bigelow, 41, was taking her three sons to the dentist for a routine visit when she somehow became involved in an angry encounter with another driver in a black Toyota Corolla, according to the Denver Post and the Westminster, Colo., police. The driver then stalked Bigelow’s vehicle in traffic long enough for her to take a picture of her pursuer’s license plate, the Denver Post reported.
When the Bigelows arrived at the dentist’s office, the other driver pulled into the parking lot near her. He confronted Meghan Bigelow and opened fire with a Glock 19, critically injuring her and killing her son Vaughn. Another son, Asa, 8, was critically injured. The gunfire also hit a bystander, who was wounded in both of his arms, while another Bigelow child, 12-year-old Cooper, ran to safety.
Westminister police arrested a suspect about three hours later, identifying him as Jeremy Webster. Webster, 23, told police he had started taking a new prescription medication for mental health reasons, but those drugs were at home, the Denver Post reported.
Although the violence outside Denver was extreme, you don’t have to travel far to run into similar encounters. Police in Akron, Ohio, said Wednesday that a woman’s jaw was broken after a motorcyclist threw a piece of concrete at her car, a local TV station reported, citing the Associated Press. The 29-year-old woman and her boyfriend had honked at the motorcyclist when he was stopped at a green light.
Earlier this month, police in Loveland, Colo., asked for help identifying the vehicle and driver involved in a road-rage incident in a Walmart parking lot. Video released by police shows two vehicles pulling into the lot, apparently in connection with a follow-up to an encounter that began in Fort Collins. As the driver and front-seat passenger step out of one vehicle, the driver of the other vehicle accelerates toward the stationary vehicle, grazing the side, and dragging the passenger a short distance.
Although much of the attention after the Denver shooting outside the dentist’s office has been focused on the road rage, the incident also puts a new light on studies that suggest people who carry firearms in their cars to keep the peace are perhaps more likely to pick a fight.
Researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, building on previous work in Arizona, found that people who often traveled in a vehicle with firearms were more likely to make an obscene gesture or follow another driver after an angry encounter in traffic. The 2005 study, which appeared in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, was published at a time when 23 states had eased laws on carrying firearms on one’s person or in vehicles. That number has since grown.
Road rage — not unlike social media rage — thrives under conditions of relative isolation and anonymity and can quickly stir territorial aggression, researchers say. But having a gun in the car to shield oneself from such a threat turns out to be a possible incitement for it.