Video shows moments leading up to road rage shooting along bridge
TAMPA (FOX 13) - Police released video of Monday night's apparent road rage incident along the Howard Frankland Bridge - that ended with a motorcyclist getting shot.
It was just before 10 p.m. when the altercation happened in Tampa-bound traffic along the east side of the bridge. A group of motorcycle riders later told police that they had been cut off in traffic by an SUV, starting a series of exchanges ending with the SUV and at least some of the motorcyclists stopping along the side of the road.
That's when the altercation got physical. According to police, someone in the SUV got a gun from inside and began firing, hitting one of the motorcyclists -- a 27-year-old whom police declined to identify -- in the ankle.
That motorcyclist was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, while the SUV headed northbound on Interstate 275, clipping another vehicle in the process.
Video from one of the riders' helmet cams, taken after the SUV apparently cut off the bikers, was released early Tuesday afternoon. It shows the group of at least five motorcyclists swarming around the SUV, which police described as a red or maroon Ford Edge.
A witness told FOX 13 everyone involved appeared to be driving up to 90 miles an hour.
"They went back and forth swerving at each other," said Matthew Cox. "Both parties had ample opportunity to back off each other and let them go. In fact, the SUV driver was exiting onto Kennedy and the bikes stopped. There was no reason to stop. Let it go and keep driving."
Cox said he didn't see the shooting and was stunned to learn that's how it ended.
"There was no reason for that. No reason for it," he said. "There's nothing that those bikes could have done that deserved and warranted a shooting."
Motorcyclists agreed, adding many who ride bikes get a bad reputation based on reports of a few bad apples in their community.
"If I get cut off and they wave their hand, 'hey, I'm sorry... hey, it's not a big deal.' There's blind spots in every vehicle," a biker told FOX 13 News. "We can't have other cars trying to be the police."
Motorcyclists who spoke to FOX 13 News told similar stories of drivers cutting them off as they approached.
"A lot of people they see us coming and pull out in front of us," one of those bikers said.
"If I'm on the interstate and I want to do 90 and you see me coming by, don't try to block me. Don't jump in front of me. Just let me go. If I crash and I die, that's one me," another explained. "They try to block us... most of the time we're just out to ride enjoy the ride have a nice night out."
Police hoped the video would help them begin to piece together what happened.
"There may have been some wrong on both sides, there may have been some misunderstanding that led to a really bad situation. We need to identify him, which is why we are asking the public for help," explained Steve Hegarty with TPD.
He added, investigators would like to talk to the driver of the SUV, who was seen in some of the grainy helmet cam video. They ask anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477). A $3,000 reward is available "for information that leads to the identification and arrest of the unknown suspect."
"We would have to talk to everybody who was involved in it before we decide if there are going to be any charges," Hegarty clarified.