Dallas man warns that even the simplest of situations can turn dangerous

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Even the most innocuous of situations can quickly turn dangerous, a Dallas man warned, after a minor traffic accident a few months ago led to a physical assault.

Colin Harper said that what should have been a simple, courteous exchange of information after a minor accident a few months ago quickly escalated into what could have turned into a deadly confrontation.

Late in the afternoon on Oct. 8, Harper, a real estate agent, said he was driving north on the Dallas North Tollway after showing a house in the southern suburbs. In his rearview mirror, he saw a black convertible speeding toward him and noticed the car’s blinker was on, indicating the driver intended to pass.

The car did pass him but came so close to Harper’s car that it clipped the driver’s side mirror on Harper’s car. So Harper exited at Lemmon Avenue, watching as the convertible slowed down and followed.

“I thought everything was fine,” Harper said, noting that the driver wasn’t “riding up on me,” and did not appear to be angry or aggressive. Harper made a right at Lemmon and pulled into the first parking lot he saw. He took out his insurance card to exchange information, then noticed, for the first time, how angry the other man looked.

Harper said that as he got out of his car and approached the other vehicle, he could smell alcohol on the other driver’s breath. He said the man later admitted that he had been drinking

When he asked the other driver to let him take a cell phone photo of his insurance card, the man began grinding his teeth before answering, “No. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to fix our own shit. You’re going to get in your own car and drive away.”

Harper said when he tried to take a picture of the other driver’s license plate, the man grabbed the phone out of his hand, throwing it on the ground and cracking the screen. Harper said he realized later he should have taken the picture from inside his car, with the doors locked, and that it occurred to him later to wonder what might have happened if the assailant had pulled a gun on him.

Harper said the man’s wife, who appeared much calmer than her husband, got out of the car. But her husband “got in my face and said, ‘What are you going to do, faggot?’”

When his wife suggested he get back in the car and let her handle the situation, he instead shouted for her to “Quit talking to that faggot.”

Harper said the woman was about to call his phone so that he would have her contact number when her husband got out of the car again, screaming at her that she should “know her place.”

That’s when Harper called 911. He said he reached a Highland Park emergency operator, even though he was in Dallas, because border separating the two cities is across the street from the parking lot where they had stopped.

Harper said that the 911 operator explained to the other driver that if there was no officer, the two drivers should simply exchange information. She said they’d try to dispatch an officer but usually don’t do so for a minor traffic accident.

When they hung up, Harper said the other man grabbed him by the neck, broke his sunglasses and threw him to the ground.

Harper called 911 again, reached the same operator and reported that the incident had escalated into assault. The officer said a car had already been dispatched.

By this time, the other driver was back in his car, and as Harper was getting up, the man warned him to get out of the way or he’d hit him. Harper said he had barely made it up when the other man brushed by him in the car.

“He was going to hit me if I hadn’t jumped,” Harper said.

Dallas police showed up in the parking lot about 20 minutes after Harper had already made it home. They took two reports — an accident and property damage report and an assault report.

Harper later learned that a few hours after his run-in with the man, the driver who had attacked him totalled his car in an accident near Stacy Road in Allen. The accident cites the cause of the wreck as “changed lanes when unsafe.”

Dallas police called Harper weeks later with an offer to pay $300 that would have covered the damage to his car. But Harper refused the deal. He wants the other man to face the consequences of his behavior.

“Next time,” Harper said in explaining his reasoning, “he could kill somebody.”

The driver will to appear in Dallas Municipal Court for arraignment on Feb. 7 on a charge of assault with contact.