KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An 18-year-old Cape Girardeau, Missouri man is charged in a road rage shooting on I-70 near Oak Grove that left 53-year-old Gary Denham dead.
Jackson County prosecutors on Thursday charged Charles Smith with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of armed criminal action.
According to court records, Just before 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, Oak Grove police and the Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to an incident on eastbound I-70 at Oak Grove.
The driver of a white Hyundai Elantra, with Florida registration, and the driver of a green Ford pickup, were reportedly involved in a road-rage incident, during which the driver of the pickup went off the side of I-70 and crashed into a parked vehicle at the Petro Travel Center, according to court documents.
The driver of the pickup, identified as Denham, was found with an apparent gunshot wound and died from his injuries.
Witnesses reported the description of the suspect vehicle. One witness reported hearing a “popping noise” immediately before Denham went off the roadway.
Another witness reported Smith driving erratically, then overtook and struck Denham’s pickup, which caused it to go off the roadway. White paint was evident on the driver’s side truck bed of Denham’s Ford, according to court documents.
Troopers located the suspect vehicle later traveling east in Lafayette County. Troopers attempted to stop Smith but he sped away, eventually stopping in a field south of I-70 and ran on foot.
Following an overnight search, Smith was located hiding behind an automotive shop in Sweet Springs and taken into custody just before 10 a.m. Thursday morning. Video surveillance was located and positively identified Smith as the suspect.
Smith told the highway patrol Denham was driving aggressively, used obscene gestures towards him, and cut him off. Smith said the pickup struck his vehicle multiple times which made him mad, according to court records.
After further questioning, Smith stated he fired a shot at the pickup because he thought his vehicle could overturn and he could be ejected, court records say. Smith said he fired at the pickup without aiming, and that it was intended to be a warning shot. He said he was unaware he struck the victim.
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Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker released the following statement Thursday night:
“The Missouri Highway Patrol worked through the night Wednesday to ensure that the suspect in the shooting on Interstate 70 was apprehended. The community owes them a great thanks.
As a result, today we have these charges in a totally needless act of violence with the highest range of punishment available under these facts. A family is now without an husband and father who was everything to them. Our roadways are necessary and busy with other travelers getting to their destinations. They must remain safe. Everyone should take note: take a breath, show some restraint, and let everyone get to their destination safely.“
Smith is being held on a $250,000 bond.